Fall Head Over Heels for Strategy

On my nightstand, you will find a variety of business and science fiction books, Discover, National Geographic and…wait for it…VOGUE magazines. I am not ashamed to admit to salivating over the masterful collection of art and detail that is each colorful page. I do not “read” VOGUE, but drink in and experience each spread, falling head first into a fantasy world. Every once in awhile, an article jumps out at me and I wonder how I can relate the experience to my everyday world. (Yes, there are articles in VOGUE.)

Enter, the newly designed, Manolo Blahnik pump. Be still my heart. I adore shoes. At one point in time, I had 186 pairs of shoes. Upon moving to a teeny tiny apartment in Boston, my husband “convinced” me to give away at least half to charity. However, out of all of the funky, eclectic shoes in my collection, only a handful are heels. Just as I admire shoes, I have deeper admiration for the women who can walk in these works of art. I have fantasized about owning a pair of leopard print Manolo Blahnik pumps for a good chunk of my life…about the same amount of time I have tried to master walking in heels. Facing reality, I know my 5’2’ self will never look the part of a super model striding down the catwalk. I walk like a duck.

However, according to the VOGUE February 2011 issue, the Spring collection of new heels are a step up from the single source glam, to the pump “with no glamazon ambitions, no S & M pretensions, shoes whose whole existence is dedicated to the single goal of making your legs, your feet, and you look fetching…” The last thing any of us want is to literally fall head over heels because of an ill-designed and superficial shoe. As the 2011 heels of second chances stride down the runway, perhaps we can take a design cue from the fashion world and breathe a second life into our strategy planning.

I won’t be the first or last to write about strategy. Except  have been hard-pressed to find people who can put strategic theory into practice and actually write a strategy. Perhaps it is time to strip way the superficial and reveal the design elements of a brilliant strategy, just as we admire the qualities and sleek design of the revised pumps.

Revealing

Dominatrix and gladiator shoes were once all the rage, but cloaked the delicate skin beneath. Every good strategy requires bringing to light the challenges that must be overcome before the strategy can be successful. Be realistic before mapping out your plan. Consider auditing the present environment to analyze conditions before setting out into unknown territory. Understand how your strategy will work in tandem with or overlap other organization initiatives.

Your strategy will need buy-in from others in the organization and you don’t want these folks to be caught by surprise due to a situation that could have been avoided. When outlining potential issues in the strategy document, you can plan for the future. You can’t plan for everything, but there are some instances when you can look out the window, see clouds and wear your wellies instead of strappy heels.

Graceful

The first thing I do when I meet a person is look at their shoes. You can tell a lot about a person’s character by the upkeep and soles of their shoes; how far they have walked or have not. When documenting your strategy, you are communicating the story you want buy-in to tell. There needs to be structure and seamless flow. A badly written or organized strategy only tells the story of the evil step sister trying to squeeze her fat foot into the delicate glass slipper of Cinderella.  

Yielding

Most shoes have to be broken in-just like your strategy. Not everything you plan can be implemented or accepted by internal and external culture all at once. Beauty takes time and must mold to the figure you represent. Many strategies are not specific enough about how the tactics will be measured or evaluated over time. Set expectations from the start and build in the time it will take to properly analyze the success of the strategy. A blister received on the first day of wearing the new shoe is not always indicative of a bad shoe. Ill fitting strategies, just like shoes will need to be tweaked over time, but may eventually become the best pair of heels you have ever owned.

Step out and step up this Spring, inspired by the perfect shoe. Stand toe to toe with competitors. Measure up to expectations from internal and external stakeholders. Look and dress your part. Because in this reality, there is no black bar to hide your identity when all your flaws are revealed for the world to see.

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