Archive for February, 2010
I have a Google alert on the phrase "being strategic," partly to see what's happening with my book, but partly because I find so fascinating all the disparate (and sometimes contradictory) ways people use those words. Here's one I got this morning:
"InterActiveCorp’s dating website company Match.com has acquired Singlesnet. Singlesnet offers similar services as Match.com. Match.com sees the acquisition has having value rather than being strategic. SinglesNet will continue to operate as an independent company."
What? Strategic is the opposite of valuable? If I dig down through this, it implies the writer is defining being strategic as "doing something solely to take out a competitor, vs. rather than as a direct benefit to your business." This is an implied definition I've seen more and more lately: being strategic = being manipulative or aggressive…or even deceptive or inauthentic. To that point, here's another of my Google alerts this morning, from someone's Tweet:
"Being strategic is too exhausting. If I love or hate you it will show. Wish more ppl were like that. I don't have the patience to fake it."
I find it irritating when perfectly good and useable words or phrases start being defined in limiting ways – like "feedback," which has come to mean "telling you something bad about yourself" (vs. "providing input") or "buxom," which has come to mean "fat" (vs. "curvy and voluptuous").
I'm sticking to my much more useful and actionable definition of being strategic:
Consistently focusing on those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future.
Today Patrick and I are making beer and bread. Both processes involve an approach that works well in lots of situations, I find. First, you plan and prepare carefully, making sure you have the right materials, and combining them in a specific way, under optimal conditions.
Then, you let the ingredients work together to create a new thing. You stop messing around with them and allow them to combine and evolve.
In the case of bread, you measure and mix an activating agent (yeast or sourdough) with the proper ingredients – flour, water, some sweetener, oil, salt. Then you knead it.
Once you've done all that, you have to put it aside and trust that it's going to rise.
It's just like doing a vision and strategy session with a group. I like to think that the group's felt need is the activating agent. Then you put together the right ingredients – the right people in the room, the right information, the right process. Then you knead it – that's where good facilitation comes in.
At that point, you have to let it go. And if you've done everything well and carefully up till then, it will most likely evolve to create a new thing – a vision for the future, a sense of clarity and possibility about that future, and a feasible and practical map for getting there. Voila! Sometimes it can seem almost magical.
I started this process with the editorial group at Newsday last week. Because they're in a newsroom environment, where it's almost impossible to take two full days for this process, as we usually do, we're doing it in three 4-5 hour sessions, spread out over about 6 weeks. (We did it this same way last summer for the senior team at The Early Show, and it worked very well; so I felt pretty confident when I recommended this approach to the Newsday folks.)
We're early in the rising process…but I have a feeling this is going to be really tasty.
Mary Jo Asmus.
There are a lot of fun, smart, interesting people online, and Mary Jo Asmus is one of them.
When I started The Simplest Thing three years ago, I had one goal: I wanted to publicize my first book, and people told me that having a blog was a good way to do it. Since then, I've discovered all kinds of other great benefits to blogging: it gives me a place to try out new thinking, I find out about other cool blogs from the comments I get, it gives me credibility in the online community, etc. etc.
But the thing I like most about blogging – and that has been an unexpected and delightful surprise - is the human connection. There are a number of people I now consider friends, thanks to the internet, whom I have never met in person. Wally Bock has offered tremendous support ever since we "met" shortly after Growing great Employees came out: he's a great guy and clear thinker, and I very much enjoy reading his blog and talking with him about leadership, organizations, and life in general.
Recently, he connected me with Mary Jo, a blogger and consultant in Michigan – he thought we'd resonate with each other, and he was right. She and I had a great first conversation, and she suggested we do an interview about Being Strategic on her blog.
So, here's the result…hope you enjoy it!
I was working with a client group today, and the sales guy said, "It feels post-recession to me now. People are starting to relax and decide again."
And I thought – Yes, it feels that way to me, too: post-recession. But like a lot of other "post" things (post-surgical, post-war, post-partum), just because something is over, doesn't mean it's back to the way it was before.
Even though the numbers seem to be going in the right direction (slight drop in unemployment, growth in the GDP for 4th quarter), and people do seem to be "relaxing and deciding again," I'm noticing some pretty significant changes in how business is being done.
Overall, people seem more skittish. People are committing to decisions more provisionally, changing their minds more often, moving things around: schedules, money, people. Less sure.
In part, I think it's healthy – business people seem to be making fewer this-is-the-way-it-has-to-be assumptions about how to move forward. There's more reflection and more conversation about major decisions.
There is a downside to this more fluid approach, though – it can very easily cross the line into unhelpful second-guessing; people not trusting their instincts and experience. I see some folks making a decision, then changing their minds just because it seems scary to commit to anything, when so many people got into so much trouble committing to courses of action a couple of years ago that seemed right to them at the time.
I'm hoping that as we figure out how to navigate in this new world, we can find the middle path: staying open to new alternatives and approaches, while still having the confidence to commit to good, well-thought-out decisions and moving forward on them. I know it's hard – like putting all your weight on a broken leg just out of the cast – but it's the only way you ever get all your strength back and learn to run again.