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 ourselves from what holds us back. Sounds terrific, doesn’t it? To move from what’s now to what’s next, answer the following six questions:
- Why do we exist? One of the keys to developing a vision is to ensure that everyone in the organization understands the “why” of its purpose and its connection to it. When everyone understands the organization’s vision and why it matters, they can easily connect their decision-making to what’s essential. This one question can fuel an entire organization’s decision-making and keep it aligned because its statement of purpose is being carried out daily.
- 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 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, which builds reputation and creates culture.
- What is the most important thing right now? Patrick Lencioni writes extensively about balanced scorecards, which he redesigned as a thematic goal scorecard that tells the organization the most important thing to do in the short term. Thematic goals are not designed for multi-year assignments like strategic goals. Instead, a thematic goal determines the precise actions the organization needs to take next in the short term. For example, increase customer service, build a new digital network, and projects like these that will fulfill the organization’s goals.
- Who is going to do what? When answered correctly, this last question answers two questions in reality: 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, intelligent 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 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 chance of moving your organization from what’s now to what’s next.