Sorting out the Chaos
Many of us lead fairly chaotic business lives. We never seem to have time to sit back and think strategically about where we're going and how we're going to get there, let alone do anything substantial about it. Instead, we end up conducting a daily series of fire-fighting actions which leads to inefficiency, frustration and stress. In the worst-cases, the stress can manifest itself in tiredness, grumpiness, depression and deteriorating personal relationships. I call this the "chaotic business syndrome". Typical indicators are:
- there are too many things you could/should be doing
- you can't see the wood for the trees
- you find it difficult to prioritise tasks effectively
- you are "running hard to stay still"
- you become forgetful and make mistakes
- you're too busy to grow the business
You may not yet be at the serious end of this downward spiral but, if any of the above indicators are true of your business, you should consider early actions to escape from the spiral before it's too late.
The trouble is, when there are more things you could be doing than there are hours in the day to do them, how do you choose which tasks to do and which to drop or delegate when they all look equally important or can only be done by you? Well the obvious answer is to identify the really important tasks that have to be done by you and then focus on doing them. OK, so how do you do that?
Piloting your way through the chaos
Think of your business as a ship which has to be steered safely to its destination. The captain looks at his starting point and destination on the chart and plots a course which gets him there as safely and quickly as possible. However he doesn't just draw a straight line on the chart and follow it. He takes into account navigational hazards such as rocks and busy shipping lanes and considers the effects of weather and tides which can throw him off course. He also makes course corrections on the way when some of these factors change. The fact that he had plotted his original course on the chart allows him to decide which course alterations to make along the way.
It's the same with any business. Unless you have a clear vision of where you want to end up, know where you are starting from and have a course plotted to get you there, you will not know which options to choose when faced with decisions along the way. Having clarity in these matters in your own mind and those of any stakeholders in your business is the only way to maintain the focus necessary to take the business forward. And just as the captain of the ship needs to train his mind and follow a logical process to navigate his ship, so we need to train our minds and follow a logical process to navigate our businesses towards our vision.
This process is called strategic management and can be learnt and applied by any business owner whatever the size of their business. When it is applied properly and fully implemented, strategic management lets you see the wood for the trees and helps you to get the really important things done. It’s no surprise that people who manage strategically feel on top of their businesses and tend to be more successful and less stressed than those who manage chaotically.
So how do we do it?
There is a simple process, which I will describe in my next article, which you can follow to take you through the 5 stages of strategic management.
Like all good ideas, the strategic management process is simple in principle. However, it is not a magic wand that you simply wave over your business and everything comes right. Understanding the process is one thing; implementing it is quite another. If you seriously want to grow your business, reduce your stress and you are prepared to put in the effort to understand strategic management and implement it, then watch out for the next article Choosing what to act on. If not, just carry on with the chaos!