Strategy without stretch will leave you stranded.
Quick one here: Name one company that is simply living to die; I can probably think of a few, but they tend to have massive regulatory overhang (tobacco companies come to mind). Now think for a second: What if your own company’s executive leaders told you that their strategy was to just play out the string?
Play not to get hurt?
Play prevent defense?
Focus only on risk management, not risk taking?
Collect salary and bonus instead of earning it?
What would you think?
Ok, ok, ok, for those of you who said, “I’d think I work for a bank,” I’ll give you style points.
But for the rest of you, I’d bet you’d think that there has to be something more, that there has to be more to a strategy than mere existence. Right?
If there’s something I learned from a few years playing sports, it’s that playing not to get hurt…playing just to get through it, is in fact a great way to get hurt, and it’s also a great way to hurt those around you. Tentative players on a sports field create injuries.
Weird, isn’t it?
I’ll tell you this as well: tentative strategies create injured companies. They also create injured careers.
I get to hear executives balance many reasons for being tentative, and they are often very good ones…in isolation. But what shouldn’t happen, can’t happen, is for a strategy to be a roll-up of tentative plans. Sure, you’ll have capabilities that aren’t ready for prime time, and you’ll hold back, but you can’t hold back everywhere all the time. I rarely see a truly tentative strategy, but when I do, it has one common theme:
Yep, that’s right…fear–leaders who are afraid to stretch themselves or their people, who are afraid to try something new. This is either due to a cultural norm that was hammered into them or a fear of messing up a high-paying perch, but in either case, setting strategy without stretch is essentially betting on the status quo.
The world moves too fast for that; people demand too much more from their careers to stay with you while stagnating. Your customers won’t even respect your own low expectations for yourself.
So, don’t succumb to the soft bigotry of low expectations in your professional career.
Build some stretch into your strategy.
How about you? What do you think?