The best boss I ever had gave me this advice: "She with a plan wins." And I never forgot that - it reinforced what I thought I knew and gave me confidence to always ask people where they were headed.
She was not referring to a simple plan or a checklist, although those are helpful tools. She was talking about the importance of starting with a business strategy, and making sure that I connected purpose to each day and whatever I decided to prioritize.
She emphasized that there is always more work than there is time - and that is the truth. So, how do you know what comes next? I learned that I needed to have a strategy for everything I wanted to accomplish.
Today, strategy has become the foundation for everything we do at Aha! -- our aim is to help product managers efficiently innovate and build products and services that matter. Product managers play an increasingly critical role in most technology companies. They control the future of their business because they manage ideas, and they are responsible for building a product roadmap that aligns strategy to their product goals.
Whatever you hope to achieve, whether it is the successful launch of a new product at a startup or growing an existing service at an established business, strategy will help you see where you are going and help you get there.
To start creating a brilliant business strategy, ask yourself these three critical questions:
Why are you doing what you are doing? What goals do you hope to accomplish? Your answer will clarify your vision and give you a true north for your direction. Ask the question "why" before beginning any endeavor, and then periodically return to the question even after the work is underway -- just to make sure you are still on track.
When are you going to accomplish your goal? Deadlines and timelines are critical to achieving any objective, so commit to a realistic target date for satisfying each goal. Remember that time is short; that is why you must approach every goal with a sense of real urgency, instead of keeping them in the "someday" category.
What high-level work initiatives do you need to prioritize to reach your goals? Not everything that you want is of equal importance or will relate to your goals (again, there is always more work than time). So, the more you can specifically define each initiative, and rank it according to priority, the better your chances of actually accomplishing each goal.
Once you are able to answer these questions, then you can start moving forward and pinning down the gritty details of the work ahead of you. You will want to break down the "what" into more actionable tasks, and then begin allocating resources against the work to be completed.
As time goes on, keep your strategy in front of you (where you can see it.) Make sure that every decision you make is in alignment with that strategy; it must remain your true north for whatever you are trying to achieve, or you may lose your way.
There is no getting around it. Strategy is -- and always will be -- fundamental to your success. When you start to incorporate strategy into everything you do and every decision that you make, then you will be able to work with real purpose and progress toward achieving any goal.