5 Critical Moments to Evaluate Your Strategy

businessman with hat in front of two roads

“To see things in a new way, we must rise above the fray.” -Rich Horwath

 

Not too long ago, I featured Rich Horwath, the author of Elevate: The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking here to discuss the common mistakes of strategic planning.  Rich has helped thousands of managers with the strategic process.

After the interview, I decided to follow up with him to ask when leaders need to abandon or re-evaluate a strategic plan.  I have seen executives stick with a plan and others modify or abandon a plan.  Most leaders don’t want to open up the plan over and over because it shows indecisiveness, a lack of confidence or it creates confusion.  That said, there are times when a major review or rewrite is important.  So, I asked Rich:

When is revisiting the plan the right thing to do?

The ability to modify strategy at the right time can literally save or destroy a business. Here is a checklist of five moments when it is critical to evaluate your strategy.

 

1. Goals are achieved or changed.

 

Goals are what you are trying to achieve, and strategy is how you’re going to get there.

It makes sense then, if the destination changes, so too should the path to get there.  As you accomplish goals and establish new ones, changes in resource allocation are often required to keep moving forward.  In some cases, goals are modified during the course of the year to reflect changes in the market, competitive landscape, or customer profile. It’s important to reflect on the strategy as these changes occur to see if it also needs to be modified.

 

“Goals are what you are trying to achieve, and strategy is how you’re going to get there.” -Rich Horwath

 

2. Customer needs evolve.

 

The endgame of business strategy is to serve customers’ needs in a more profitable way than the competition.  But, as the makers of the Polaroid camera, hard- cover encyclopedias, and pagers will tell you, customer needs evolve.

The leaders skilled in strategic thinking are able to continually generate new insights into the emerging needs of key customers.  They can then shape their group’s current or future offerings to best meet those evolving needs.

 

“The endgame of business strategy is to serve customers’ needs in a more profitable way than the competition.” -Rich Horwath

 

3. Innovation changes the market.

 

Innovation can be described as creating new value for customers.

The new value may be technological in nature, but it can also be generated in many other ways including service, experience, marketing, process, etc.  It may be earth shattering, or it may be minor in nature.  The key is to keep a tight pulse on your market, customers, and competitors to understand when innovation, or new value, is being delivered and by whom.  Once that’s confirmed, assess your goals and strategies to determine if they need to be adjusted based on this new level of value in the market.

 

4. Competitors change the perception of value.

3 Common Mistakes of Strategic Planning

Chess - Bad Move

 

I’m always looking for ways to improve the strategic planning from a dreaded annual activity to a meaningful, helpful process.

Recently, I had the opportunity to read Elevate: The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking by Rich Horwath.  Rich has helped numerous companies and managers with the strategic planning process and evaluating strategic capabilities.  I had the opportunity to talk with Rich about the most common mistakes leaders make.

 

“If your strategic plan isn’t driving daily activities, then you’ve wasted time doing the plan.” -Rich Horwath

 

3 Common Mistakes of Strategic Planning

 

Rich, you’ve worked on strategy both as the CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute and before that as a Chief Strategy Officer.  What are the most common mistakes you see in strategic planning?

 

There are typically three mistakes when it comes to strategic planning.

 

“The number one cause of bankruptcy is bad strategy.” -Rich Horwath

 

Mistake #1:  Confusing strategy with other planning terms.

 

The first is the group not having a universal understanding of what strategy is and how it differs from other key planning terms such as mission, vision, goals, objectives and tactics. There’s a tremendous lack of precision when it comes to strategic planning and that starts with the fundamental building blocks.

 

“Concepts change thinking and tools change behavior.” -Rich Horwath

 

Mistake #2:  Regurgitating last year’s plan.

 

The second is that most plans are simply a regurgitation of last year’s plan.  This is because managers don’t think before they plan.  I’m a big believer that new growth comes from new thinking.  If you don’t take time and tools to generate new insights, then don’t expect your group to perform any better than the year before, or the year before that.

 

Mistake #3:  Not linking the strategic plan to daily activities.

7 Tenets of Taxi Terry

It Started With A Question

 

“Are you ready for the best cab ride of your life?”

When the door slammed shut, Scott McKain wasn’t only taking a cab ride to his hotel.  He was embarking on one of the greatest customer experiences he could imagine.  Not only would Scott enjoy a memorable cab ride, he would exit that taxi with lessons that can make a difference in every business.

 

“Passion without effort equals failure.” –Scott McKain

 

The taxi driver, Taxi Terry, didn’t know that he had just picked up my friend, bestselling author, extraordinary professional speaker, and customer service expert Scott McKain.  Of all the people in the world to pick up at the airport, Taxi Terry picked up a global expert in standing out, in the art of distinction. In fact, he is the Chairman of the Distinction Institute.

 

7 Tenets of Taxi Terry

  1. Set high expectations and then exceed them.
  2. Delivering what helps the customer helps you.
  3. Customers are people, so personalize their experience.
  4. Think logically and then act creatively and consistently.
  5. Make the customer the star of your show.
  6. Help your customers come back for more.
  7. Creating joy for your customer will make your work–and life–more joyful.

 

That simple, enthusiastic question, directed to an exhausted traveler one night was the beginning of a customer experience that tens of thousands of people have learned from. Scott has presented the lessons he learned to audiences around the world.  And the lessons are now available in a new book, one that will inspire you.  7 Tenets of Taxi Terry is sure to be one of the enduring business books that will come up in conversations everywhere (yes, even in a cab!).

 

“If you want your business to get better, the first step is for you to get better.” –Scott McKain

 

Do You Want to Create Memorable Customer Experiences?

Serve to Be Great: 7 Lessons from Matt Tenney

We all make mistakes.  When we learn from those mistakes, we are said to be wise.  When we not only learn from those mistakes, but also then decide to use the experience to better the world, we become an inspiring example of what is possible.  When we make serving others our primary goal, our view of the world shifts and new possibilities emerge.

I am excited to introduce Matt Tenney, who has written a terrific new book, Serve to Be Great.  I’m always looking to learn from others, and here are a few lessons I learned from Matt’s powerful story:

 

“There is no better way to build our influence with others than to serve them.” –Matt Tenney

 

1. You can create happiness anywhere.

Few people have experienced the depths of despair like Matt Tenney.  His failure landed him in prison for years.  And yet, in prison, Matt learned to be happier in a cell than he was when he was free.

 

“Leaders who consider others’ needs first are more likely to empower employees.” –Matt Tenney

 

2. Your greatest failure may be your life’s greatest catalyst for change.

As I spent time with Matt, I could see that his zest for life and appreciation for everything around him was somehow different.  Undoubtedly this came from experiencing the loss of all that he knew.

 

“Asking ‘How will this help me to serve others?’ makes us more effective and happier leaders.” –Matt Tenney

3. When you change your self-talk, you change your world.

Reading Matt’s terrific new book, Serve to Be Great, I noticed that his self-talk changed throughout his story.  As he planned a crime, he was justifying his actions.  Now, his self-talk is all about how he can serve others.

 

 

“Being fully present with a person is one of the most effective ways to show that we care.” –Matt Tenney

 

4.  Learn how to change selfishness to selflessness.

Matt is constantly asking himself this question: “How will this help me to serve others?”  By focusing everything outward, it changes his motivation and the trajectory of his actions.  Matt’s goal is to be the most kind, compassionate person he can be.  Get around him and you will find that you, too, want to be more compassionate.

 

“Wisdom is much more likely to develop while we are still than when we are in motion.” –Matt Tenney

5.  Service leads to greatness.

Leaders who lead with love are the ones we remember.  Among the many examples Matt shares in his keynote speech is Joel Manby, who wrote Love Works.  Joel is a CEO, featured on Undercover Boss, who leads with love.  When leaders serve with love, the positive impact creates sustainable success.

“The more focused I became on how I could serve others, the happier I became.” –Matt Tenney

 

6.  Notice the extraordinary small moments.

Previously, Matt wrote a guest post for Leadership Insights about what he learned about leadership from Daniel.  Daniel was a teenager dying from cancer, and yet he taught lessons that still make Matt emotional.

“Every time we interact with another, we have the opportunity to add value to a life.” –Matt Tenney

7.  In stillness, you can change your state of mind, your present and your future.

Practicing mindfulness and awareness training, which he learned from monks, is important for leaders.  Lowering stress, becoming focused, and increasing your compassion for others is all possible through the practices he shares in his book.

Last week, I spent some time with Matt.  I had the opportunity to watch him keynote for industry executives.  I watched him interact with people from all walks of life.  And I learned from his story.  I think you will enjoy Matt’s story and his book.

As I wrote in a blurb he included in the book: Serve to Be Great is both inspiring and practical.  Matt Tenney delivers a powerful narrative that takes you on an incredible journey.  The insights from that journey and the examples he shares of truly great leaders will improve your performance, widen your perspective, and raise your leadership game.”

Because service does lead to greatness.  And servant leadership is the best form of leadership there is.

Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom

How to Overcome Leadership Blindspots

Blind spot

 

When you first learn to drive, do you remember learning about blind spots?  The driving instructor likely emphasized it repeatedly.

I can remember my driving instructor saying, “Check your blind spot before you change lanes.  Your life depends on it and so does mine!”

They are called blind spots for a reason.  They are not visible, not readily apparent, and are easily missed.

Author Robert Bruce Shaw has just released a new book called Leadership Blindspots.  I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his new book and the challenges facing leaders.

 

A blindspot is an unrecognized weakness or threat that has the potential to undermine a leader’s success.

 

The Need For An Early Warning System

 

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” –Jonathan Swift

 

You discuss the balancing act that all leaders face.  That is the need to be both supremely confident and yet also see situations accurately with no distortion.  It’s always easy to look in the rear view mirror and judge leaders, but how does a leader know early enough to change course?Robert Bruce Shaw

Leaders need warning systems that signal trouble ahead.  Savvy leaders, for example, have a group of trusted advisors whose role, in part, is to surface vulnerabilities that a leader may overlook.  Or, some leaders assign “sentinels” to track data on emerging competitive threats and report out periodically on what they are finding.  I also describe in the book ongoing leadership practices that are useful in seeing threats early in the game, such as having regular contact with customers and front-line colleagues.  These techniques don’t tell a leader if and when to change course – but they provide the information needed to make that decision. 

 

Levels of Blindness

 

You have a chapter on this, but I want to ask:  How do you spot a blindspot if you are blind to it?

Keep in mind that there are levels of blindness.  There are times when leaders are completely blindsided by a weakness or threat and other situations when they are partially aware of a weakness or threat but fail to understand its potential impact or the need for action.  That said, you can simply ask a few people who know you well if they think you have any blindspots.  You then probe in specific areas as needed – for example, blindspots in how you view your own leadership team or the capabilities of your organization.  Ask for specific examples in each area they identify.  Another approach is to examine the mistakes you have made over your career and look for patterns in the causes of those mistakes.  If repeated over time, mistakes are valuable in pointing to an unrecognized weakness that will most likely surface again in the future.

 

Blindspots always come with a price.

 

 

Critical Leadership Skill:  Peripheral Vision

Seeing what others miss—what you call peripheral vision—is a critical leadership skill.  What techniques help improve a leader’s peripheral vision?