Wouldn’t it be great if we could decide just six things each day that would lead to our success? Well, we can.
The result of these critical questions would mean that instead of getting stuck in a strategic challenge, we could find a way to unclog, unblock, and release us from what holds us back. Sounds terrific, doesn’t it? I realize this may sound like a bit of crazy, but it’s not. To move from what’s now to what’s next, we must first understand the six questions to ask and then abide by our decisions.
What we decide today changes our tomorrow.
This simple definition provides the basis for six questions that will lead to our understanding of what to do next.
- Why do we exist? One of the keys to strategic development is to ensure that everyone in the organization understands the “why” of its purpose and their connection to it. When everyone understands the organization’s purpose and why it matters, they can easily connect their decision-making to what’s important. This one thing is capable of fueling an entire organization’s decision-making and keeping it aligned because its statement of purpose is being carried out each day.
- How should we behave? Another way to ask this question is, What are our values? Values determine how we will act and conduct ourselves, especially toward other team members who share the same values. Over time, the combination of the primary purpose of the organization and the established values of behavior create our organization’s culture. And they help us understand what is “Next” in all of our decision-making.
- What do we do? Once we’ve decided on the “why” and “how” questions, it is necessary to answer “what” does our organization do? What are we best known for? What is a quick characterization of us? This question focuses the team on what the organization essentially does. It also answers why we matter and determines how our customers see us. Regardless of the area of the organization, it is a helpful reminder of how their expertise builds toward the ultimate goal.
- What is our strategy? When everyone in an organization understands what the “Big Idea” is that drives the mission, it makes it simple for team members to deliver on that promise that builds performance. Performance builds reputation, which in turn builds culture.
- What is the most important thing, right now? Patrick Lencioni writes extensively about balanced scorecards which he redesigned as a thematic goal scorecard which tells the organization the most important thing to do in the short term. Thematic goals are not designed for multi-year assignments like a strategic goal. Instead, a thematic goal determines the precise actions the organization needs to take next in the short term. Increase customer service, build a new digital network, and projects like this that will fulfill the organization’s short-term goal.
- Who is going to do what? This last question answers two questions in reality when answered correctly: Who is going to do what and Who is not going to do what. High-functioning organizations take the time to break up silos that cause splits in the organization. Decades ago, corporations split themselves into divisions and departments and told their managers to live or die on their own P/L. Today, smart organizational strategy connects all of them into one cohesive organization that acts as one, not many.
Once your leadership team has grappled with these six questions and communicated them with their answers throughout the organization, you will have an advantage over many organizations that do not precisely understand what they’re doing. This approach gives you a better than fighting chance of moving your organization from what’s now to what’s next.