How to become a better strategist

How to become a better strategist
By Samantha Dean

Most people struggle with strategy and more importantly the execution of it. It’s not something that only Accountants struggle with, it’s universal.  However, over the years, we’ve surveyed and spoken to hundreds of Accountants and firms to find out what their major blocks are to growing their businesses and adjusting to the future. Eight out of ten say lack of business clarity and strategy is a block and ironically one of the biggest barriers to success is being too busy to do anything about it.

Why is this ironic? Well, deep strategy work is time consuming. Particularly in our ever changing, fast moving, digitally disruptive world where issues are more complex to navigate, and competition is higher than ever. For these reasons, NOW is more critical than ever for leaders to work on business strategy, and this needs to be on a consistent weekly basis, aside from the day-to-day fire-fighting which dominates our industry.

It’s also important to realise that we’re not going to cure our time poor issues overnight and we certainly are not going to become instant master strategists either. We must undo decades of habits and behaviours and believe it or not there is a strategy to do that. However, that’s a topic for another time.

So, what small steps can we start taking today to make us a little bit better at strategy?

Let’s start with getting a better understanding of:

  • What strategy is
  • Why it’s important
  • How to set and execute an effective strategy

What is strategy?

Great strategic planning is having a clear action plan that involves directing your resources to help achieve your vision or overall goal.

Why is strategic planning so important?

There are lots of reasons that many online resources and books will tell you, commonly that having a great strategy, executed well provides a foundation for a business to create, monitor and measure success.

However, my answer to this is simple – it gives us the framework to make efficient and quick decisions. Good strategy makes us more efficient and clearer in our day-to-day thinking and decision making, thus saving us time in the process.

How to set and execute an effective strategy

  1. Set your vision – write it down
  2. Break it down
  3. Take action
  4. Make yourself accountable
  5. Keep it front of mind

1. Set your vision

Investigate the future and where you want to be.  Keep it simple and start at a personal level, i.e. “where do I want to be in five years and then in ten years?” It must be deeply personal because to successfully execute strategy you have to know where you want to go, and you have to WANT to go there at all costs.

So then write your vision down.

2. Break it down

Break down the plan into small and achievable steps. I find the most effective steps are the ones you can undertake within a daily or weekly time frame as they help to form a habit which makes it easier to stick to. Also, be specific and have deadlines throughout your plan.

3. Take action

Make a start and consistently take action.

George Patton couldn’t have said it better when he said, “a good plan executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week”.

4. Make yourself accountable

It’s tough to keep yourself accountable to your own goals and expectations and it can be too easy to make excuses to yourself for why you haven’t taken any action. Get someone to help keep you accountable like an external coach or verbalise what you’re doing to others, i.e. discuss with your colleagues or staff.

If I had to pick which step in the process I’ve seen make the biggest difference to our clients’ success and even myself for that matter, it’s this one.

5. Keep it front of mind

Put your vision somewhere you can see it daily – a post-it note on your computer screen or mirror or for those who prefer technology, a photo on your screen saver. It doesn’t have to be flash, it’s just something to continually remind and help keep you on track.

The most important thing is to start and execute. Remember an average plan executed is far more successful than a fabulous plan not executed!

Samantha Dean Author
Director & Consultant
Samantha Dean is a passionate FCA with over 25 years in Public Practice, the last 10 in the business advisory space. She is well known for her passion in advising business owners to achieve their business goals without compromising their personal ones. As a practitioner, Sam knows firsthand what works and what doesn’t when moving a practice from a traditional based compliance business model to a proactive advisory one.
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