If you are a coyote and you are chasing rabbits and try to catch them all at the same time you are likely to come up empty handed and go to bed hungry. If you catch one first then catch the next one after that you are likely to be well fed for a long time.
Les McKeown (author of Predictable Success and The Synergist) just posted the following tweet earlier today.
It has a very important message because I think a lot of business people including advisers mix this up when they talk about why they think having a strategy is a waste of time or too limiting.
According to Google the definition of strategic is:
According to Google the definition of arbitrary is:
I had to look a bit deeper for a good definition of opportunism as many definitions had a connotation of violating ethics although strictly speaking, chasing an opportunity could be within or out of your values.
Being strategic may or may not mean you are inflexible about your longer term vision and goals. Having a strategy does not mean you can never change or adapt it. In fact you should review your strategy periodically; how often will depend on your circumstances. Things change.
Being arbitrary means you are likely to change direction without a lot of consideration of the impact. Changing direction is costly for an organization. Without a clear sense of direction a team can quickly start heading in many directions at the same time. The team is unable to predict what the next change will be or even if this current change will be completed because of the arbitrary nature of the decisions. This also makes it virtually impossible to effectively delegate as your company grows.
Opportunism means you seize opportunities when they present themselves. If this is not part of your overall strategy it can cross over to being arbitrary or violate your core values and culture.
Strategic opportunism is the ability to know where you are going overall (mission and vision) and have a strong set of guiding values and supporting culture; while being able to change direction quickly and pursue opportunities.
This means you either adapt your strategy quickly or your strategy is flexible enough to allow different ways of reaching the end picture. Your strong values and culture constrain the opportunism to opportunities that further your business while maintaining your values, culture and overall mission.
The key is that you execute on the opportunities and bring them to market (at least most of the time). If you change paths without completing any opportunities you will eventually run out of money… profit lies in results… delivering value to customers. You will also frustrate most of the team.
Chasing lots of rabbits at the same time is arbitrary and NOT a strategy.
Having opportunism as part of your strategy can be effective. So can staying the course on a single objective.
The key is that you and the team are crystal clear on what the strategy is. Writing it down and communicating it regularly is also very important.
What style of strategic planning do you follow? Leave a comment below.