At first glance, “strategic action” may sound like an oxymoron. But strategy is only useful if it can be executed. Otherwise it’s just a string of good ideas bouncing around like a pinball game in your brain. So how does a well-thought-out strategy get out of your head and into an action plan?
1) Write everything down – Start jotting thoughts on a whiteboard, post-it notes, in a notebook, in a Word doc or, what I do, a stream of consciousness text file. Typing or writing ideas down, without worrying about punctuation or grammar, makes them real. It is also helpful when trying to remember all of the nuggets that come out when the mind is open to non-judgemental brainstorming.
2) Group your ideas – Look at all of the thoughts and ideas, then begin to identify common qualities. These qualities become categories for organizing your strategic thoughts into groups. It’s ok if some ideas fall under more than one category. I find that once these thoughts are down on paper, it’s much easier to see commonalities than when everything is one big pot of minestrone soup in my mind.
3) Prioritize – You’ve grouped ideas according to their common qualities, and identified the categories. Now label these categories in a way that identifies their priority, such as “urgent,” “important,” “later,” etc. Use terms that are meaningful to you and the people who are involved in the work.
4) Put it on the calendar – time flies by especially quickly for a to-do list that doesn’t have deadlines. Look at chunks of time on the calendar – I tend to think in quarters of the calendar year – and assign due dates to your most urgent to-do’s and major milestones.
5) Celebrate success – each time a significant deadline from your to-do list is met, reward yourself and the members of your team who got it done. High fives are great, so are nice lunches or a quick run to the coffee shop for some specialty drinks.
The main thing to remember is…no one can see the creative ideas bouncing around in your head. Verbalizing them is one step, but by only verbalizing them, your ideas will remain abstract and vulnerable to misinterpretation. Once ideas are out of your head and captured in a format that you can share with others, progress starts immediately.