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The Balance of Strategic Thinking, Part III: Setting Sail…

It was a less-than-energetic discussion between the executive team members. The subjects of my prior blog (The Balance of Strategic Thinking, Part II) were frustrated and confused–except for the head of acquisitions. He was, if you remember, well ahead of his metrics for the prior year. But his success was wreaking havoc on everyone else.

What I admire about this team, though, is that they finally entered into an honest discussion around their frustrations. It was a tense discussion, but very civil. There was, however, this looming cloud of confusion around how to balance acquisitions with what their organization could handle. They sincerely wanted “this” and they wanted “that”–all good things. But they were struggling to understand why they were stuck.

So I asked the team: “Do you want to be known as a truly greatcompany, or do you want to be known for making a lot of acquisitions?”

I asked this because there’s a huge difference between the two. Their answer: Absolute silence. Everyone started looking at each other, eyeballs flashing from one person to the next looking for what they should say. After a few awkward moments of desperate stares in silence, the CEO sheepishly said, “Well….yeah…we want to be great,” to which everyone else began nodding their heads in agreement. Then why do their strategies evolve so much around such a high number of acquisitions that in turn wreak havoc on their current systems and processes? Why aren’t they prepared for the success they say they want to achieve? That’s not where greatness resides. They weren’t celebrating anything but exhaustion.

The next time you meet with your core executive team, take the time to talk about things that can easily get lost in the sea of metrics:

  1. What do we want to be known for?
  2. What is, definitively, our strategic imperative?
  3. What systems and processes do we need to streamline so we set ourselves up for success? (Prioritize these because you can’t do them all at once.)

From this vantage point, you can then set sail in the direction of your intent.

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