This month’s entry from ASQ’s A View From The Q blog, written by ASQ CEO Bill Troy, centers around strategy – specifically, what is the purpose of strategy and how can it be properly developed and deployed? Why is strategy important?
He has five questions leaders need to ask themselves and properly answer in order to utilize strategic thinking in the best way possible:
– What are your key facts and assumptions? What information is driving your current state of operations? Is that information objective and measurable or subjective and inconsistently understood?
– What is your theory of victory? What does success look like?
– Can you actually accomplish each aspect of your strategy? It’s like the old management joke “High quality, low cost, or fast delivery – you can only pick two.” Is achieving all three a genuine possibility? If not, you need to establish what you CAN accomplish.
– Is your organization doing things that sit outside your strategy? If there are things absorbing your time, money, and attention that don’t support your strategy, you should really question how important those things are.
– Have you left enough time to test your strategy? Developing your strategy is the first step in progress, but chances are high that the strategy will not be perfect – test the strategy, see what works and what doesn’t, and tweak it to fit for the direction you genuinely want to go.
According to Bill, the purpose of strategy is to define how to get from where you are to where you want to be. You must first define both ends of that journey, which means having a solid and honest understanding of your current state and who you are as an organization. You don’t just hand someone driving directions without knowing where they’re starting and where they’re going, do you?
Another way I like to define the value of strategy is how the actual journey of improvement will help you prioritize what is and is not important (see Bill’s fourth point about things outside the strategy).
Manufacturing companies have made “SQDC Boards” very popular – SQDC stands for Safety, Quality, Delivery, and Cost. On paper, this is the way we should always prioritize our activities – always function in the safest manner possible, provide the most ideal level of quality possible, and provide that quality in a complete and timely manner, all in a cost-effective way.
This is a very basic framework of how to prioritize a strategy – we should never sacrifice safety to achieve quality or deliver, and we should never sacrifice ideal quality in order to give products or services to a customer faster. It’s better to provide ideal quality slowly than to ship bad quality fast.
But how often in our organizations do we throw those priorities out of order? How often do we push for sending something – ANYTHING – out the door if it isn’t what the customer really wants?
When we do precisely that, we aren’t thinking strategically and we aren’t acting strategically. We are focused on short-term quick “wins” instead of a long-term culture of doing things right and in the right way.
I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.