Implementation of strategy is barely visible by the naked eye.

I think that one of the reasons most people see strategies as a failure is because they don’t ‘see’ them unfold when implemented.

Strategy is not about massive change, it’s about strategic change. Massive changes are tactical activities that slowly bring about the vision over many years.

Honestly, the best vision is a lasting one that you don’t have to change every three to five years. The Air Force Sergeants Association’ purpose is to fight for Air Force enlisted benefits on Capitol Hill. Their vision is simple, To be the professional organization of choice to Air Force and the families. This is a measurable long term vision that AFSA will strive to, but may never achieve.

So, why do I say that strategy is invisible?

Strategy is about placement and preparedness. To implement a strategy, normally, you are (to use a military term) prepping the battle space for operations. The strategic actions in themselves are seldom that noticeable, but what they do is prepare you for opportunities that are sure to reveal themselves–opportunities that probably would not have shown themselves if you were not prepared.

Recently, I had a senior leader tell me that all the successes the group I’ve been working with was happenstance (i.e., luck). I disagreed. The strategic activities that we were intertwining over the last two years allowed for the successes to occur.

This is why people who are implementing strategic plans seldom see the forest through the trees. They have to go on faith that what they’re doing will have impact. Even to the employees, they seldom see the subtle changes taking place in the organization.

It is the leader and the strategy experts job to watch for these changes and to stand on the mountaintop and scream out these changes so everyone will know what has happened.

Strategic programs being put in place, strategic organizational changes, strategic development of employees… These things happen over time and when something happens over time, it is often. Viewed as ‘normal operations’ — just part of the daily routine.

This is so far from the truth. In my current role, we started two years ago to “improve document management.” Today, everyone in the document management space meet once a week under a developed governance structure. Today their is a six-person team that matures the do unenthusiastic domain slowly every day. Today there is a 26-page document strategy that highlights how we got here and where we’re going. Today there is an end-to-end understanding of the document life cycle. Today there is a robust document metrics program with accompanying metrics collection strategy.

Those things were strategic in nature and have produced tactical actions, which will lead to us moving closer to our vision of being the leader in document management.

Strangely enough, after two years of discussing and working with ten to twenty industry consultants, we are beginning to think that we are already a leader in this space. The beauty of our strategic effort is that we see how far we have to go and if we can achieve that over the next several years, we will not only be a leader, but ‘the leader!’

A year ago, we researched the only book written on document strategy–written by Kevin Craine. Kevin is a nice guy, who wrote his book based on a Master’s program. Today, he has a blog and regular pod casts about document management and strategy. That’s the authoritative leader in this space.

The harder you look at your strategic implementation the clearer it will become that you are improving. Take the time to understand why you are doing the things your are doing and look for the subtle outcomes. You just might find out you’re well on your way to your vision already and you just can’t see it.


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

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