This is the final installment in this short series on big questions leaders ask. The truth is I could write a hundred posts on questions leaders ask. But, rather than write about the many, I’ve chosen to focus on the big three - Where are we going? Where are we today? And, today’s question: How will we get there?
“How will we get there?” is a question of strategy. Strategy, simply stated, is a chosen path to a pre-determined destination.
Here’s an example: If you want to improve student test scores, one strategy could be to improve their study habits; another might be to involve their parents more; another option would be to improve the their classroom experience; or, you could focus on improving the teachers. This list could be very long. It could also be overwhelming. Strategy is fundamentally a choice – which path will you choose?
That’s not to say you couldn’t have multiple strategies. However, you cannot do everything. Strategy always involves a choice. Our work as leaders is to determine the best choice from a virtually limitless sea of options. Setting strategic direction is one of our core responsibilities as leaders.
As you consider your strategy, the following questions may help.
If we execute our strategy flawlessly, what’s our confidence level we’ll achieve our goal?
If your confidence that a flawlessly executed strategy will not generate the results you desire is low, you probably have the wrong strategy. Or, perhaps it’s just incomplete. In my example about improving test scores, the odds are good, success will require more than a single strategy.
Do we have the resources (time, money, people, expertise) to execute the strategy we’ve outlined?
When I played football in high school, other teams would constantly throw long touchdowns passes against us. As a 16-year old, I remember wondering why we never threw long passes. It wasn’t until years later I realized, we didn’t have a quarterback who could throw long passes nor receivers who could catch them. Our coach was wise. He knew he shouldn’t call a play we couldn’t run. Leaders shouldn’t establish strategies your team can’t execute either.
Who is accountable to execute the strategy?
Most strategies do not fail – the failure is usually one of execution. Volumes have been written on execution. I’ve even written a little about it myself in a post entitled, Flawless Execution. My best advice to improve execution is to be clear regarding who specifically, is accountable. This won’t solve all your execution issues, but at least you know where the buck stops.
Over the years, it has become increasingly clear to me, the more questions I ask, the better I lead. However, if you don’t ask, and answer, the big three questions, all the other questions are irrelevant.
Do you and your team have clarity on the answers to the big three questions?