Saturday, December 29, 2012

Without Great Execution, Strategy is Just Good Intentions

A strategy - whether in companies or life - is created through hundreds of everyday decisions about how you spend your time, energy, and money.  With every moment of your time, every decision about how you spend your energy and your money, you are making a statement about what really matters to you.  You can talk all you want about having a clear purpose and strategy for your life, but ultimately this means nothing if you are not investing the resources you have in a way that is consistent with your strategy.  In the end, strategy is nothing but good intentions unless it's effectively implemented.
- How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clay Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon
I can't put down - How Will You Measure Your Life? - the fantastic, new book by Harvard professor, Clay Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon.

This quick and engaging read is a important addition to the self-help and business literature.  And has my juices flowing! 

Instead of offering anecdotes on how to live your best life, or become a better leader, Christensen, et al. share and apply proven business theories, such as resource allocation process and directive and emergent strategy to help us guide and predict outcomes in both our professional and PERSONAL lives.

I LOVED the quote above from Chapter 4 - Your Strategy Is Not What You Say It Is - because I have long believed that execution (what you DO and how you DO it) trumps strategy (what you SAY you're doing) any day!

We ALL have good intentions.
"I want my children to be healthy, happy and productive."

"I want to help people who are struggling and in need."

"I want to make a real difference with my career."

"I want to be a great mentor and leader."
The problem is, intentions are meaningless unless you CONSISTENTLY put your weight (time, talent and treasure) behind them.

The real question is, how can we be people who align strategy (intention) with execution (action) to ensure that we live good lives? 

Here are my reflections, based on the book.
  • Watch where your resources flow, especially time.  Like taking an audit of your financials, spend a month monitoring how you spend your time.  What do you do with that extra 1/2 hour?  How do you spend your weekends?  Who/what gets the bulk of your attention? After this audit, decide if you are spending your time in the right way and make adjustments as needed.
  • Focus on the small stuff - So many decisions we make seem small and tactical (because they ARE!). Therefore, it's easy to miss the fact that the small stuff adds up over time.  Skipping a night of reading to your kids.  Cancelling a dinner date with your partner.  Working late.  Not recognizing an employee's contribution.  In isolation, none of these actions will make or break your future, but over time the small stuff ads up and forms a pattern of behavior that is hard to change.  Don't neglect the small stuff.  Be INTENTIONAL about these interactions. 
  • Think long vs. short-term - Make decisions (and ACT) based on your long-term strategy not just to achieve short-term pleasure or gain.  Stay focused on where you want to land 5, 10 or 20 years from now vs. next month.  This is hard to do!  It's easy to eat a delicious, nutty, creamy chocolate bar now :) vs. stay on a healthy eating plan to ensure long-term fitness.  It's easy to skip a tough meeting and avoid conflict now vs. continuing to work through tough issues and build an enduring, collegial relationship.  While it takes discipline to prioritize a long-term gain over a short-term fix, having a long-term outlook is crucial to both personal and professional success.  
To succeed in life means more than having good intentions, it means employing a daily discipline of activities and interactions to drive your future forward.  Don't just preach about your plans and wax on about your strategy.  ACT in alignment with who you want to be and where you want to go. This is the stuff of success!




Eastbound Andy said...

Love the idea of an audit. I added KPIs to my goals for this year for a similar reason. I don't just want to make more time for fiction, I want to read 12 books, run a faster marathon, visit one new country, etc. Maybe I should start with an audit, too.

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