The Organizational Strategist

January 3, 2014

Make Your New Year A Success

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Whit @ 7:28 pm


The New Year is upon us! This is the exiting time when we can refresh and restart as we look forward into the coming year. It is a good time to rejoice on your accomplishments, celebrate your achievements, and bask in the tales of your adventures. At the same time, honor your relationships and partnerships, the struggles and challenges you’ve endured and experienced, and the losses you sustained. Essentially, use this time to come to terms with what happened in the ups and downs of the year’s activities. This helps set the stage for the New Year.

-Review, Reflect, Dream, Define, Plan-

As with personal or corporate strategy, it is good to take a pause to ensure your new objectives, plans, and goals are well aligned and properly set up for execution. What is important to avoid would be the latest technology or business fads that have no real substance. That can be tough to gauge without investing some time and experimentation, but be sure to balance the efforts. We do not want to be simply joining the crowd of people who join a new gym as a part of a New Year’s goal that has no real traction. Here’s a set of steps to pull together your approach:

Review – Take stock of your past goals and see how well you did or did not progress toward achievement.

Reflect – What went well? What did not go well? If you repeat a goal, what would you do differently?

Dream – Ponder and discover what new activities and adventures you could and should undertake for this coming year.

Define – Of those dreams, what makes sense to focus on and start undertaking? It may be that some dreams are perpetual or may take a long, dedicated effort to achieve.

Plan – Set out the details to realize your goals in all of the manners that make sense (noting what people involvement is needed, articulating what the goal is and means, breaking goals down into tasks/activities, etc.).

In pulling together your goals, I’ve long been a fan of SMART goals. While the acronym can have many variations, I use the definitions of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound. By using that structure it makes ambiguous aspirations into concrete goals that others can grasp. Beyond that, I often add the ER at the end making them SMARTER goals. This ER stands for Engaging and Rewarding. Why I add those in is because the goals that suit yourself, your needs/interests, and your style for motivation and energizing make them much more likely to be successful.

The ideal goals are ones that have mutually beneficial outcomes with other efforts (be they organizational, familial, personal, and so on) so that any support, resources, or other progress made pays off in multiple ways. Of course, these steps are iterative and may need to involve discussions, revisions, reviews, and so on to finalize and set the more intricate plans in motion. The more others are involved and the more challenging they may be, the more it helps to articulate the best path forward.


New Year’s resolutions are a form of a professional and/or personal check point and course correction to shaping your future. Like other strategic approaches, using a disciplined, thorough, and engaging approach makes it all the more successful in the future. Good luck with your 2014 and may it be a very successful and happy one!

January 20, 2010

Achieving Alignment & Balance through Strategic Planning


It’s the time of year again for New Year’s resolutions, performance management, expectation setting, and business goal setting. In their own way, those pursuits are setting up and aligning strategy. Such aspirations will range from bottom line monetary improvements, to marketplace innovations, to work/life balance, to personal happiness and well being.

Some of my own goals include the following:

  • Cultivate meaningful, positive relationships in my Seattle network by meeting 2+ people a week
  • Create 3+ articles per month for this blog and grow the readership (suggestions welcome!)
  • Overcome the challenging economic circumstances and find my way to a whole new professional adventure this year

A new year brings new possibilities and new dreams to everyone who sets their mind to doing so. It is very important to grasp onto these opportunities while they are knocking at your door. Be sure to keep in mind that opportunities can be entirely new or part of an ongoing series of pursuits.

-Maintain the Investment Balance of Sustaining versus Emerging-

When researching and plotting out the organizational alignment of resources and capabilities to win in the market, i.e. setting your organizational strategy, understand that there needs to be a balance. That balance should take place among your initiatives to sustain momentum and trying something entirely new. The proper balance will vary based upon your or your organizational needs. However, either extreme of the spectrum (focusing solely on emerging investments with no existing investment maintenance or sustaining existing investments and not investing in future potential) can lead to disaster.

Here are some scenarios:

  • The rapid scale creation and market of hard disks is a good example. The pace of creation and disruptive inventions was so great that every company creating new disks had to invest heavily in constantly improving or replacing their disk offerings. Many disk creating companies died off because they could not keep up with the pace of technological change and breakthrough. Disk drives were constantly being replaced. I remember zip disks, laser disks, optical drives, and other technologies that sounded very promising, but were replaced by CD ROMs, DVDs, and others as time went by.
  • Another example that comes to mind is the competition of American made automobiles against the foreign imports, especially Asian cars. This is a much more drawn out one as it took more years to gradually take effect. Regardless, we’ve seen Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, and others gradually phase out or decrease sales of Ford, Dodge, and others because of their better prices, longevity, warranties, and so on. American auto makers tried to mimic their production system, which helped but ultimately only delayed the phasing out because of the continuing improvement and innovation that Toyota and others employed. Here the American car companies did not invest enough in new technologies to overcome the operational excellence and innovation of the international competition.
  • For company examples of the past decade, check out this interesting blog post from the Harvard Business Review.

You need a pipeline of things to come; to keep fresh, stay agile, and keep competing with other organizations. So that thought should always be present when doing strategic planning and goal setting. However, don’t neglect the good things you already have going. Like strength based change, it’s good to continually cultivate your strengths to make the most of them. There is a plethora of good information on finding the right kind of balance needed. For example, Clayton Christensen has written some excellent books on this kind of subject. The Innovator’s Dilemma and Innovator’s Solution are examples of such books. Generally speaking, I’ve found that the faster an industry changes, the more investment needs to be made for innovating. This may sound rather simple, but it can be really hard to let go of or trim the budget of the products/services that have become the seasoned “cash cows” of an organization in order to pave the way to the future. Always be thinking about the long term sustainability of yourself and organization (people, planet, and profit) and how the ever changing market environment needs and how your organization can be adaptable.


I am personally inspired by stories of courage and action. In fact, I made that a focus of my MBA class graduation speech. Similar to that messaging, know that it takes courage to make the big gains, try new things, and embark on new adventures. Taking risks does not always pay off. Yet, it may be an even bigger risk to the long term sustainability of an organization to take no risks at all. I encourage everyone to take the time to find the right balance of pursuing innovation, continual improvement in operations, and market fit. I look forward to hearing your stories of inspiration, courage and action.


Harvard Business Review blog:

My graduation speech:

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