As you enter a new calendar year, perhaps you are taking time to step back and re-evaluate your organization in order to gain clarity about where you are, where you need to be, and how you’re going to get there. That’s essentially strategic planning, and it’s important exercise for all leaders to engage in on a consistent basis. Whether you do it at the beginning of the year, end of the year, around a fiscal year, or another set time, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you do it and you do it consistently.
However, sometimes the process can feel like a drag because it’s not something you naturally get excited about doing. But it doesn’t have to be that way! It can be fun, energizing, and engaging, and it can provide you with tremendous clarity that will help you focus on what’s most important for taking your organization to the next level.
In order to help you, I’ve developed a set of “Seven Essential Questions” that every leader must be able to answer about their organization. In this post, I’m going outline the first three questions.
QUESTION #1: WHO ARE WE?
“The person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” -Thomas Carlyle
The most important question to ask first addresses your identity, and it’s made up of three parts:
– Purpose: why you exist. This is the primary reason for everything that you do; it gives meaning to your work.
– Mission: what you do. This helps you know where to focus your energy on what you do best.
– Values: what you believe. This shapes behavior and clarifies what you stand for as an organization.
QUESTION #2: WHERE ARE WE GOING?
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” -Helen Keller
Next, you need to get clear about your preferred picture of the future for the organization–your vision. In order to develop a compelling vision, it should be: Vivid, Inspiring, Succinct, Intentional, Optimistic, and Noteworthy.
When you effectively create a compelling vision, it will produce passion in the people you lead.
QUESTION #3: WHAT IS OUR CURRENT REALITY?
“An accurate, insightful view of current reality is as important as a clear vision.” -Peter Senge
The third question takes some courage because it requires you to confront the current situation for your organization, which is not always fun to do. Perhaps things aren’t going well. That’s ok — the worst thing you can do is to pretend like everything is fine! Take some time to be honest and objective about where you are, what’s going well, and what’s not going so well. A simple tool to help you with this process is a SWOT analysis:
S – strengths: affirm what you do best.
W – weaknesses: identify areas of deficiency.
O – opportunities: examine opportunities for growth.
T – threats: identify potential threats to your success.
These first three questions provide the foundation for your strategic road map. Spend some time working through these questions and gaining as much clarity as possible because it will help you tremendously in developing a sound, cohesive strategy for your organization.
In the next post, we’ll look at the remaining four questions, which focus more on formulating the goals, strategies, and performance indicators to help you move forward with intentionality and clarity.