No matter what study you look at, strategic thinking is a critical element of being a highly effective leader and I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. In a recent study of 10,000 leaders, 97% say that being strategic was the most important element of their role.
All good, isn’t it? Well, not really, because there seems to be a very big gap between what we say, and believe, and what we actually do!
You see in other research – done by Rich Horwath of the Strategic Thinking Institute – 96% of leaders say they lack the time to invest in strategic thinking! So, 97% say it is the most important thing to do but 96% say they lack the time! Now, there is a gap between what we say and how we behave!
To quote further from Rich Howarth’s study, one of the reasons they lack the time is that 44% say they spend most of their time fire fighting!!
In one of his studies, Roger Martin, from the Rotman School of Management, discovered that 67% of managers believe that their organisation is bad at developing strategy. He states that 43% of managers cannot articulate their own strategy.
To quote from Harvard Business School professor David Collis” It’s a dirty little secret: Most executives cannot articulate the objective, scope, and advantage of their business in a simple statement. If they can’t, neither can anyone else.”
But this is not to beat up managers and leaders – it is simply to highlight the issue and do something about it.
So, let’s talk about time – or the lack of it, as many perceive.
It is true that leaders are working longer hours, and anecdotal evidence suggests that Covid has extended the working day. But we know from working with leadership teams around the globe, that a key area for unlocking increased effectiveness, is to challenge if we are doing the “right work” in the “right way”. So, often we get busy doing things ineffectively. Here is an area to really drive performance.
“But”, I hear you say, “that’s all very well but we are working every hour available – where are we going to find the time to unlock this potential?”
Well, to quote the great David Allen, founder of Getting Things Done: “you don’t need time, you need space”
Now, I hear you cry – “That’s all very well for him but I bet he does not have a schedule of back to back meetings!!”
That may well be true since I have no idea what his calendar looks like! But I do know one thing – and this is based on the data that we get from teams for our PitStop Programs – is this amazing statistic:
On average 40% of a team’s time spent on internal collaboration (in other words, meetings!) is wasted! Think of that – 40% of the time! That is data provided by team members themselves!
Let’s put some numbers to that: Let’s say you have a leadership team of 10 people at an average cost of €200K per person. Total cost is €2m – and 40% of wasted time comes to €800k.
What a waste of money – and time!
What if we took that wastage and spent some of it talking about and implementing strategy? Now we are creating the space that David Allen talks about – we have the time, we are just wasting it!
You see, one of the key elements of building a high-performance team is creating the space to dialogue – to talk about our strategy, our alignment, our way of working. And we can now see that our excuse for not having the time is not a valid one.
We need to give the time and the space both individually and collectively to dialogue about our strategy. Our strategy is not static – it is dynamic and we need to invest the time to review and align.
It’s a myth to believe that to be effective we have to get everyone to work flat out all the time – the “metal to the floor” syndrome. But it is about:
- Effective collaboration
- Removing obstacles, and
- Unlocking potential.
We will achieve that by taking the time to dialogue, reflect, and continuously realign to ensure that strategically we are on course to deliver on our key objectives.
So, as leaders we need to ensure that strategic thinking and implementation are getting the time it deserves – and let’s not kid ourselves as the time is there, we are just not allocating that time we know we are wasting to this really critical work.
If you are interested in talking about how we can PitStop your team, create that space to dialogue and deliver on your critical projects, then reach out here to discuss further.