Smart strategies

Words of Wilson features a rotating panel of consultants from Bruce Wilson & Company, a landscape consulting firm.

© Johnrob | iStockphoto

It’s easy to get lost in the weeds when thinking about your company. Taking a drone’s eye view can help. Just like using aerial photography for job mapping, viewing your business from an emotional distance can help you spot opportunities.

Ask yourself:

  • When viewed ‘from above,’ does my company look right?
  • How efficient are we from an operational standpoint?
  • Is our message relevant?
  • How well are we using our people as an asset to stay competitive?
  • Where do we want to go and what more do we want to accomplish?

Here are 10 ways you can become more strategic:

1. Move from a tactical to a strategic mindset.

Make strategy part of your job. Identify the most important thing you want to achieve and work on that. Delegate critical outcomes to your team to own and execute. This frees up your time to work on growth.

2. Organize conceptual planning sessions.

Bring your decision-making team into the visioning process and move big-picture thinking into end game outcomes. Create a wish-list regarding your goals and objectives for next year, and for the next three and five years.

The financial goals that come out of this type of planning session can become the benchmark for your budget.

3. Establish a process.

Go offsite and disconnect from fire drills and the constant ping of digital devices. Include key members of your team who have a stake in the outcome. These could include: marketing/sales, operations, finance and HR.

4. Identify ground rules.

Allow sufficient time to encourage open discussion; everyone participates, no one dominates; listen to understand; and critique ideas, not people. These are just a few commonly used ground rules facilitators use to keep conversation at the strategic level.

5. No jumping into tactics.

Diffusing sidebars is a common challenge for tactical thinkers. To avoid this, ask your planning team to come prepared with revenue-driving ideas, market data and trend information to provide context for decision-making and keep the discussion at a higher level.

6. Ask tough questions.

The better informed your planning team is about your business and the industry, the more strategic your plan. Encourage critical thinking around SWOT guidelines – analyze your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This exercise is good at getting planning participants engaged, is easy to do and helps you and your team take a long, hard look at your business.

7. Develop your strategic intent.

Decide what broad initiatives you want to undertake in both the short and long term.

Do you want to grow your business into a new market over the next two years, grow the company at a 20 percent compounded annual growth rate over next three years, or want to be the employer of choice?

8. Create your action plan.

Include obstacles to your success and a plan to address them. One way to problem-solve is to tackle root cause by asking the five whys. Why is it a problem? Then take that answer and ask why again five times.

Each time you ask why, search for answers that are grounded in fact, not guesses or hypotheticals. Remember that this years’ problems came from last year’s weak solutions.

9. Execute.

Identify highest value activities and establish ownership and accountability. The process is greatly undermined if you create a plan and nothing changes. Enthusiasm is contagious.

To generate alignment and commitment to strategy and generate meaningful change, be your company’s top cheerleader.

10. Don’t forget to stretch.

Brainstorming is more than thinking outside the box. Eliminate the box and break down barriers so that the plan is not just about increasing competence or copying what your competition is doing.

Competence does give you an advantage, but it is not a lasting advantage. Real advantage comes from offering something different and having your competition copy you.

Bruce Wilson is principal of green industry consulting firm Bruce Wilson & Company.

October 2018
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