Taking the Time to be Strategic

Why do owners and leaders fight being strategic? It is a chronic problem in many businesses. It is not that the leadership team is not capable of being strategic but taking the time to be strategic.

Time is a critical commodity and most work environments are designed (most often by accident) to reward people for being busy. The easiest way to be busy is to be involved solving the most critical problem of the minute.

Organizations that thrive on crises are feeding a reactive process and unfortunately the reward system (for being visibly busy) is counterproductive to being proactive and strategic, eliminating crises and being more productive.

What is the corrective action or solution?
The key step to changing the crisis environment is to take the time to be strategic. While we can get immediate satisfaction from solving an important problem and our ego stroked by the attention it gets, the effort solving the crisis does nothing to prevent it from happening again. Inventory your daily activities and look at how much of the day or week is devoted to tactical matters compared to how much is devoted to stepping back and identifying strategies on how to do things right, assign them to subordinates so that crisis can be dealt with more effectively and efficiently than having them rise to your level for action. Schedule your strategic time each day or week. Collect things beforehand that need “strategic” attention. Prioritize issues into what is important and what is not.

Work on the most important first.  Do you have a strategy for dealing with it?  If so identify why it is not working and what needs to change.  For those issues that do not map into your current strategies then you need to make a change to include adjustments to deal with them.  This may require involving one or more people or your management team to implement and adopt.

The job of the senior management is to make sure that the strategies of the business are appropriate for the current business condition.  Not to get wrapped up into the daily melee.

You cannot do this well unless you regularly step away to measure the effectiveness of your strategies.  To make sure that the organization is reacting effectively to the changing signals in the market place and customer demand and experience.

You are the coach on the sidelines (not a player on the field) with the game plan laminated into one or more pages that you are constantly referring to after each play to see if your game strategy is still sound and to make changes if something unexpected has occurred that says your game strategy is not working.  You then reevaluate it on the fly and make adjustment – you do not run onto the field – but bring your players into a huddle and communicate what the new strategy is.

Take the time to be strategic.  Be a good sideline coach.  Manage your strategies effectively.


  1. I see this all the time in my business of consulting to clients on their compensation programs, especially with companies that reward employees for working hard. You have to ask yourself what kind of behaviors do you want to reinforce? If you pay for working hard, you will certainly get a lot of hard work out of your employees. If you pay for results, that’s a whole different issue. This doesn’t come through accident as mentioned above, but through the idea that working hard is what you want to reward and the results will follow. In reality, the results may not follow, and you are likely to motivate employees to do the same again and again and again. Taking the time to be strategic and ensuring everyone knows what the goals are and how they will be evaluated/rewarded for their part in achieveing them will go a long way in changing this paradigm.

  2. @Bill

    Another way to look at this is the age old saying “Do not confuse effort with results!”

    It is amazing how some people will defend and protect their role of working hard in the business, often the biggest obstacle to making change in an organization. They view being strategic as loosing their place in the pecking order.

    It is the responsibility of the leadership team to establish the commitment to strategies that will guide and develop company behavior toward consistent and repeatable business processes and away from the variability of individual personal behavior.

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