Analysis-Paralysis: When Strategy Becomes Crippling

We have an extensive amount of experience developing information technology strategies for organizations that reaches back long before our exploits into the mobile application development space. Strategies of all size and scale: everything from broad organizational strategies to lower level program-specific strategies and now to mobile application development strategies (helping organizations determine what mobile Apps to develop for what audience using what approach at what cost over what timeframe).

When it comes to developing strategies, what crippled organizations in the past still cripples organizations today: getting too caught up in developing the strategy itself and never executing against it! Or worse, putting off developing the strategy altogether. The “we need to figure out our strategy first” syndrome before wading into a particular area or setting off in a particular direction.

Taking the time to chart one’s course is definitely a responsible and prudent activity but 1) you need to commit to doing that, otherwise that becomes the never ending excuse for not yet ’setting off’ and 2) it’s a means to an end, not the end. Don’t get caught up in charting the course. Forever planning or analyzing and never doing. It doesn’t take long for organizations to lose their competitive edge, market position and eventual existence as they become mired in outdated policies, processes and technology because they failed to progress, innovate and evolve.

We advocate a light-weight, lean approach to strategy development that sees us applying a proven and simple approach that has been around forever: where are you today (Point A)? where do you want to be tomorrow (Point B)? and how are you going to get there (from Point A to Point B)?

We time-box the activities within each one of those areas to one week: spending one week on answering the question of where are you today?, one week on answering the question where do you want to be?, one week on answering how are we going to get there? and a final week of pulling that together into a easily digestible format and then communicating and evangelizing that to key stakeholders. All told, no more than 4-weeks spent on strategy allowing our customers to move into the most important activity, execution.

Time-boxing to one week keeps activities lean and mean. It’s not an elongated, non-value adding process of assessing and documenting the current environment to the nth degree. It’s a crisp week long initial activity comprised of understanding the current pressures and challenges placed on the organization or team by the business and the strengths and weaknesses by which that organization or team is rising to those challenges and meeting those pressures.

This is followed by an equally crisp week long activity of exploring opportunities to capitalize upon the strengths by which the organization rises to and meets those present challenges as well as any opportunities to counter any weaknesses it has in facing those. Couple this with a very-high level understanding and appreciation of where the industry is going at large (from a business and technology perspective) results in a fairly good idea of where the organization or team should be going or moving towards.

Time is then spent identifying the work, or tasks, that must be undertaken to get to that future position, i.e. get from Point A to Point B. An understanding of the priorities and dependencies of that work is established followed by a very high-level estimates to give management an indication of the size and scale of effort at hand in terms of budget and time commitment.

Wrapping up the exercise is a week of communicating and evangelizing. Then it’s time to start doing! To experiment, to use an Eric Ries term, and see what that reveals in so far as the path you have chosen and whether you need to adjust (by the way, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a highly recommended read and really hits home on the value of getting out there and doing, executing, trying things).

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