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Personal strategic planning… What plan?

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UntitledI have this book from HBR including their “must read” articles on strategy.  It’s got Porter and all kinds of good stuff…  But, this book is something my husband, a successful technical engineer and manager in his own right, finds humorous. Strategy, to him, is something more intuitive and a logical thought process that needs no defined approach.  While I disagree, it does work for him.

So, it’s serendipitous that Bill Troy discusses his approach to strategic planning in the latest View from the Q post. Yeah, I’ve been involved in the process many times over the years with both Pro QC and other consulting projects I’ve taken on. I’ve also been involved in the strategic planning process as Education Chair for our local ASQ Section, although that process could use some refinement. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say we’re missing the “bigger picture” and spend too much time on the tactical side of things.  We have good intentions, but I would not consider our strategic planning to be as productive as it could be.  But, that’s not what I want to discuss here… And, we are improving in this regard.

What I find interesting about all of this talk about strategy is that I’ve only recently been called out for lack of personal strategic planning.

Troy talks about the purpose:

“The purpose of strategy, after all, is to answer this question: How do you get from where you are to where you want to be?  What is your path?  How are you going to get there, what steps do you need to take, and in what order?”

And, this is exactly what I was recently asked when my mentor reached out over concerns that I wasn’t planning my career with a long-term vision in mind. In the face of a new opportunity, he asked me an interesting question.  On my 60th birthday, will I look back and be happy with the direction of my career based on the decisions I made? Did I follow my plan?

What plan?

The questions Troy incorporates into the post are relevant as I go through this process:

  1. What are your key facts and assumptions?
  2. What is your theory of victory?
  3. Can you actually accomplish each aspect of your strategy?
  4. Have you left enough planning time to test your strategy?

I’ll admit.  I like this approach.

My mentor expanded on personal strategy with a little more detail.  He gave me some homework last week as I consider this new opportunity and whether or not it’s in line with what my personal goals are.  He asked me to really go through the strategic planning process and apply it to myself. He urged me to spend some time asking the important questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What should I be doing?
  • How do I make that happen?

I’ll admit I’ve sat down with pen in hand a few times and tried to answer these questions. I’ve answered them as a marketer though and am not sure I’ve really honestly given it the thought it deserves. Asking yourself what your strategic mission and values are has proven to be much more challenging than any similar exercise I’ve been through with an organization. Organizations are logical, and I can reflect on case studies and other resources/insight to guide me.  I’m good at that.  Thank you trusty HBR “On Strategy.”

But, I still don’t have the answers about the direction of my own life.  Is my mentor right to say that fear and complacency guides us in a more powerful way than I had previously admitted.? How many organizations have we seen fail because of this very real threat to the planning process? At 60, how will I define success?

My favorite Strategic Planning Cycle… I continue to work on this process.

strategic-plan-cycle

 

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Viva Quality!

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I like watching strategic planning in action and shouldn’t be surprised that an organization focused on quality does it so well. In this month’s View from the Q, Bill Troy posts quite a candid discussion regarding the vision of quality.

Troy talks about two distinct ideas for quality’s future, which he describes as:

Evolutionary change: I would describe one view as the ascribing to evolutionary change.  The quality movement has been immensely important and successful in many fields and will continue to grow and evolve, but will do so in recognizable and well-defined ways.  We will move down traditional paths but reach new destinations and make new inroads into fields that are underserved today. We will keep doing what we do well and find ways to do it even better.

Revolutionary change: I would call the second view as seeing revolutionary change in the future of quality.  Some of the ways we brought value to our businesses, industries, and communities will have to fundamentally change.  We will have to bring value to the C-suite as much as to the production line. We must have tools that will facilitate a meaningful contribution at ever more senior levels to make the impact our customers and colleagues want.  Knowledge, which we value so highly and have worked so hard to gather, organize, and refine, must be shared much more freely in the age of new media.

My two cents…

Regarding anything revolutionary, I want to say I’m cautious.  But, denying organizational change isn’t an option.  Of course we must have the tools necessary to meet demand. And, there’s no doubt at all that knowledge should be shared more freely if we want to truly represent our purpose as “a global community of people dedicated to quality who share the ideas and tools that make our world work better.” With this in mind, a focus on developing additional opportunities, AKA “new destinations,” does effectively resolve any performance gaps there.  I like this direction.

But, as described, evolutionary change sounds like something right out of a quality handbook.  Troy’s talking about being targeted and focused on long-term growth and expansion. If we “keep doing what we do well and find ways to do it even better,” we’re talking about the very essence of continuous improvement.  I like this direction too.

How will the future of quality unfold? 

There’s no doubt that untapped opportunities exist to raise the voice of quality.  Just in the sample of individuals I come into contact with, many don’t have a solid understanding (perspective) of the quality that we see as professionals within the industry. The potential market is vast.

I still think we have a long way to go to get out of the quality department and embedded into the C-Suite.  I also see significant potential in taking quality out of the workplace and into our daily lives.  If we focus on quality of life, the expectation is that it cascades into the workplace.

A cautious revolutionary approach that doesn’t forget to water its roots is one that generally thrives.

Viva quality!

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