Strategic Non-Planning: Advice for the Super-Busy Leader
Updated June 2, 2021
I’ll keep this short because I know you don’t have much time. Heck, I’ll keep this short because neither of us have much time!
The challenge: “way too busy”
I got an email recently from a colleague that I see occasionally. The subject line said, “Way too busy.” The message went something like “I’d really like to know what you’re doing but I’m too busy so I hope we catch up soon.” I knew it was going to say that before I even looked because I’d been meaning to send a similar message to her.
Over the last few years we’ve gone from complicated scheduling, to frantic pivoting and shifting business-scapes, to busy-thank-goodness (this summer), to a frenetic and highly digital world today.
For someone who works on strategic planning, this is actually a pretty interesting and fun environment. Long strategy retreats are rewarding. But today, there’s a lot more need to develop a vision with a leadership team in an hour - and likely in a digital way.
Now that’s a real challenge.
I’m hearing from all my clients that they are very, very busy. And then they ask me, in a somewhat worried tone, what they should do about those strategic goals we identified in an earlier meeting. I usually hear them ask that with the same somewhat desperate tone that I read in my friend’s email – I want to do it, and I occasionally find myself remembering that I should do it, but I just don’t have the time to actually do it.
I suspect you’re thinking the same thing, so let me tell you my advice to them…
My advice: don’t worry about those goals
This advice is invariably greeted with a sigh of relief. Did you feel it too? My clients and I, we both knew that they couldn’t have done anything on strategic goals even if they’d wanted to.
So, instead of using up your emotional energy feeling bad, just release those goals. Stay focused on executing. Do that really well. Get your feet back under you.
And then, at some point, come back to your goals, and figure out which one you want to attack first.
The two parts:
Just remember that there are two parts to intentionally ignoring your strategy.
First, make sure you really release yourself from any guilt about it.
Second, pick a date when you’ll make yourself think about it again. For example, the end of the year might be a good timeframe now. At that time, you may decide that you still can’t do anything strategic – but it’ll be an active decision, rather than a passive one.
An exception to the strategy:
If you have no strategy – no goals that you’re ignoring – then some strategic planning will probably save you time and make your life easier. If that’s you, you’ll be amazed at what some big-picture strategic clarity does for your daily to-do list.
Management is most effective when it is grounded in the truth, and in the reality that people face every day. And today, you may well need strategic non-planning – a strategic decision not to plan, so that you can keep your sanity, your health, your customers and your business.
It’s OK. We’ll get back to strategy very soon.