Strategic Thinking

I was lucky enough to join a training course the other day that focused on strategic thinking. The room was comprised of 5 individuals from different departments within my organization. During the four hours of robust conversation, the topic of strategic focus came up. We discussed the three main pillars that a company can put it's focus toward.

  1. Operational excellence - being efficient, lean, and operationally sound
  2. Product innovation - being the product/service leader in the industry
  3. Customer intimacy - focusing on the relationship with your customer

To put it simply, a company can't focus on all three of these pillars from an organizational standpoint. It would be confusing. They might be able to get away with two areas of focus but definitely not three. Ritz-Carlton, for example, is known for it's customer intimacy. Motel 6 would definitely be classified under operational excellence. And Apple...well, you get where I'm going. 

While the concepts of the pillars were not new to me, what I learned in that meeting is the importance of ensuring each group within an organization understands what the overall company strategic focus is (or isn't) so they can align themselves accordingly. Turns out the way I was communicating to our team was not aligning with our company's strategic focus. I mean, I work in customer support - it is my job to think about the customer. So naturally I would be inclined to believe that customer intimacy was a focus for us. Nope. Thankfully I had other people in the room to guide me into understanding that everything I knew to be true wasn't.

But looking back, I always had trouble understanding why the team seemed to be confused when I would talk to them about striking a balance between efficiently answering user emails and providing exceptional customer service, all while our company is releasing new app changes to stay at the forefront of the market.

It caused a lot of confusion around what the hell the team should be focusing on each day and rightfully so. My company is focused on two of those pillars and I tried to throw a third in the mix. Big no no.

The point is, figure out your company's strategic focus and communicate that to your team. Understand how your department plays a role in that strategy and tie everything your team does back to that. Sometimes that means networking with other people in your company who have totally different functions like I did in my class. But that's how your employees will feel connected and understand what the hell their work means and how it contributes to the business.