Better yet, I cultivate a lack of strategic vision within my team.
Because too many people confuse strategic vision and effort with progress.
Let me elaborate on that.
Up until several years ago, one of my employees would come up to me, at least once a week, with a new strategy PowerPoint, a new vision document or a new framework. And of course they had put a lot of effort into it. It was well-conceived, well-designed and more often than not it consisted of more than 100 lavishly bullet-pointed slides.
I have several fundamental problems with this.
First of all, the huge majority of vision documents or strategy PowerPoints are drafted from the company perspective and usually even from the perspective of the department of that specific employee. That means hardly any time is spent in thinking how our customers will experience this.
Secondly, they basically present a simplified overview of what’s happening in the outside world. Which makes them utterly useless. There’s a 99% chance things will happen differently.
But most important, the employee would feel really good about the document and would confuse strategic vision and effort with progress.
In this new digital world, nobody knows where we’re going. The only way to get a glimpse of what’s happening is by trying to understand what our customer wants, build a working prototype and test it in the real world. Fail fast and often. PowerPoints won’t help you do that; building, testing and tweaking will.
This is how two guys started out building Meet & Seat, a way to connect passengers on a flight based on their social media profiles. It is how one girl started Social Payment, a way to pay for your ticket through social media. And this is also how social servicing started, which is now firmly embedded in many airlines.
Several things I do to support this:
- Reward experiments. Experiments never fail, they can only bring results you didn’t expect. And that’s exactly what helps you learn. My role as a manager is to create the space needed for my team to experiment, which has hugely positive results as well as extremely negative results.
- Kill vision documents and strategy PowerPoints. The time people need to create a new strategy document could better be used to run a new experiment, which is way more valuable. My team now knows that I tend to skip emails with ‘process’, ‘strategy document’ or ‘vision’ in the subject line.
- Cultivate culture, rather than PowerPoints. I fully recognize the need for coherence in the services you develop as a company. But this coherence won’t come from a strategy document or an aligned vision document, but from your gut. So rather than create documents, I invest in spending time with my team, have disruptive days, go out for a drink and share successes. That is the stuff that creates culture and coherence.
Implementing this, completely changed team dynamics.
Instead of sharing PowerPoint documents, we are now sharing cases.
Instead of getting internal buy-in from documents, we are getting buy-in from results.
And instead of getting energy from finishing a PowerPoint document, we now get energy from success stories.
Never confuse strategic vision with progress.