I would think of a leader as someone that moves people, a manager as someone that controlled resources, and an administrator as someone in charge of a specific task. These titles tend to merge over time. I had a discussion with a law firm owner who did not see the distinction between the titles. When I explored this idea I found out that the owner thought of people as resources, so no difference between manager and leader. Going deeper into the organization there was no separation of task, so no difference between a manager and an administrator
The problem I discovered was that it was difficult to identify areas of improvement. There were no areas to look at, everything, and everyone was focused on one very large task, the mission. There were no individual processes, roles or areas to look at. My best guess was that this view of the business started when there was only one person, one task, and one deliverable. As the business grew the business process did not. Eventually the one man, one show view of the business could no longer support the larger number of deliverables. As the law firm grew bigger, the caseload increased, more people were added. There was still only one control point, and that became the bottleneck.
Too often, big-picture questions are dismissed as not necessarily urgent for te business. I would say that defining a clear vision is the most important thing you can do to move your business forward—with everyone aligned behind and empowered to make that vision a reality.
In the beginning, the single focus idea worked, but as the number of tasks increased in number that became a problem. I got this idea that there must be a magic number of tasks that was the turning point. That idea was quickly shot down. I found that there were too many variables to determine an absolute size parameter. Just a few examples of what I looked at; the skill of the owner, the complexity of the tasks, and the urgency of the task. Each business I looked at had unique characteristics. The answer was an old idea called strategic planning. Like everything else, that title means different things to different folks. Whatever you call it, the process that worked best was the development of the big picture with a glimpse into the future. I used tools like SWOT analysis to identify the areas to address and to fill in my big picture. The output was a proposed business process that fit the uniqueness of the business being analyzed.
Going into the process, there were no preconceived idea of what the solution was. The first phase of this strategic planning exercise was one of discovery. I found that every business had a culture that was shaped by the values, experiences and attitude of the top management team. No matter how good the SWOT analysis was, the culture had a large influence.
The second phase of strategic planning was exploring possibilities and matching those ideas to our big picture. All ideas were fair game, but you had to have some control over the outcome of this phase. In every project I worked on, this control was a very small team of stake holders. Stakeholders are individuals who are invested in the business, and their input has a direct impact on the success of the business. The owners of the culture and the business developed strong identities; values and attitudes in support of their mission and vision.
The hard part of this phase of planning is to break into this culture so you can define new ways of doing business, new roles, and responsibilities. The owners must give up some control and pass it on to the leaders, managers, and administrators. If this does not happen, the strategic plan becomes a nice document that is put on the shelf to collect dust.
Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on creating a strategic plan that works, contact email@example.com.