Follow the track but keep your eyes open

Opportunities don’t come on a schedule.

When you commit to a planning practice, you’ll soon experience the benefits of decoupling strategic from tactical thinking.

By centralizing decision-making at planning time, you’ll free up precious mental energy throughout the day, which you can then use to double down on execution.

After experiencing these benefits, it might be tempting to relegate deep strategic thinking to your quarterly review.

That would be a mistake.

As Richard Rumelt explains in Good Strategy Bad Strategy:

Opportunities, challenges, and changes don’t come along in nice annual packages. The need for true strategy work is episodic, not necessarily annual.

The true strategy Rumelt writes about is not an abstract vision. It’s an analysis of your strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It accounts for competition and market demands.

The afternoons you set aside for quarterly planning and your team’s annual retreats are essential, but more is needed. A good strategy is embedded in the real world. And the real world doesn’t follow a predictable schedule.

You never know when something will change. The work your past self put into crafting a plan doesn’t excuse your present self from remaining observant.

Plan with care and execute with discipline. But don’t let your fine-tuned, efficient system become a blindfold. Maintain the alertness to notice unexpected opportunities and the nimbleness to capitalize on them.

Cover image by Javad Esmaeili.