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Take time for why

- Joe Benesh is a senior architect with Shive-Hattery and president + CEO of the Ingenuity Company, a strategic planning, diagramming, framework development, and design thinking consulting firm.

Like many people I know, I use the holiday break to think about the things I would like to accomplish in the coming year. Through the years, I’ve done this in many different ways, all with varying degrees of success. As I started my list this year, I wanted to be sure to incorporate some of the lessons learned over the course of the last year and it got me thinking. When it comes to considering what I am going to do in 2016, I have to ask myself – am I spending too little time on why and too much time on what? 1449770716108

Being tactical is important. It’s how we get things done. But many times we jump to this step too early. The by-product of becoming tactical too early can be an endless stream of to-dos and Gantt charts, CPM schedules and planning diagrams with a relational / orbital hierarchy that is impossible to decipher. I concede that making to-do lists can be rewarding – and in “quick win” scenarios they are a simple way to accomplish many things expeditiously. However, when thinking about more long-term goals or considering the sustainability of your efforts, to-do lists just don’t cut it.

In the past, I have been part of (not led) sessions that generate outcome documents that are basically a SWOT analysis (a matrix of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) with some sort of “action plan” or “to do” list attached to it. To me, this does not represent a strategic plan. The SWOT is a form of analysis, to be sure. And, as indicated above, there are “quick win” environments where those type of lists work. However, the following is generally what happens if the above is used as a strategic plan.

The organization using the framework will experience a high level of productivity as they work through the list. They will even be able to tie their efforts back to elements of the SWOT analysis, due to the data collected by that analysis being discrete and parsed out into specific emphasis areas. But, as the list nears completion, or the more complex tasks in the analysis are reached, productivity has a tendency to dramatically fall off. When this happens, morale will suffer, and management will be put in a position where communicating next steps will be difficult, if not impossible.

But why is this? The main reason is that the SWOT/To-Do framework is all tactical. There is no data generated on the purpose of the task – the “why”. The why is the source – it speaks to the mission and vision of your organization. If there is no “why” to tie your efforts back to, sustainability of your organization’s operation momentum will experience a high level of volatility.

I know these conversations are hard. Being strategic seems like “fluff” or “soft” to many. This truly is not the case. Taking the time to build a strategic framework with the “why” considerations built in leads to greater overall fulfillment from all walks of staff, and creates more robust, better developed, and more fulfilling action plans. If your only definition of "why" is growth, your strategy may need further development to be holistic.

When I look at what I want to accomplish in 2016, I always start with why I want to do it. It saves me time in planning how I will allocate my own resources. Actions will be more sustainable if they are aligned with motivations. Quick wins will grow into more complex and larger outcome strategic goals. Making time for why ultimately leads to better starting points, better decisions, and better results.

 For more information:Joe _Benesh_2011

 Contact: joe@ingenuitycompany.com

 Please follow: @ingenuitycmpny

 

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