Strategy – Saying No to get to Yes

Strategy is a common (and sometimes overused) concept in organizations. We have a Strategy for our human resources. We have a Strategy for our information technology. We have a Strategy for x, y or z. If you view the creation of a Strategy as a way to latch onto something new and figure out a way to achieve it, you may be saying “yes” to so many things that you might not get what you really want.

The key ingredients (there are others) in a really successful corporate level strategy are: i) Outcomes – the ability to clearly lay out which direction you’re going; and ii) Targets – how you’ll know you get there. With those ingredients, anyone in the organization will be able to how their work directly aligns and supports the strategy. It will also be clear what work is ongoing in the organization that is *not* aligned to your strategic direction.

Work that doesn’t align and support the Outcomes and Targets can take away resources from what you really set out to achieve. Whether those resources are staff time, or direct expenses, it all distracts from the organization’s highest and most important objectives: the Outcomes you defined in your Strategy.

When someone comes into your office with a great idea for a new initiative, do you support their work and help them advance the project? Or, do you ask how does this fit into our Strategy? What’s the metric that will tell me this is moving us towards our Outcome)? What’s the resource consumption that this will require. Is it premium (new) dollars, or a reallocation of existing resources? How does this *directly* drive us towards our Targets?

Those are key questions that every executive should ask their folks when approached with new initiatives and potential work. By asking the right questions and really understanding how an initiative will move the dial on your highest corporate objectives, you’ll be able to support and advance things that will get you there. You’ll also be able to say “no” (or “not now”) to things that would be nice, but right now would be a distraction and a redirection of scarce resources.

Saying “No” to some really good ideas will let you turn the organization’s focus to the ones that you really want to say “Yes” to.

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