We want to know: How do you get from here to there?

by Jillian Walker 18 Feb 2014
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It’s March, which means that most of us have abandoned our New Year’s Resolutions. The primary reason seems to be our way of thinking. We know where we start, and we know where we want to end up, but most of the middle remains murky. So, armed with new running shoes (or Chantix or some fad diet), we embark on these endeavors, hoping that if we make it a month, we will see results. And not just any results. Every year, in our post-holiday fog, we suspend reality, and our expectations supersede what we know to be rationally true: A month of working out does not an Olympian make.

The problem isn’t the lack of a plan per se. We know that if we want to lose weight, we need to eat healthier and exercise more. If we want to run a 10k, we have to train regularly. I’m not sure the issue is even one of derailment-by-distraction. Sure, work or family can disrupt our efforts for a day, even a week. But disruptions merely camouflage the real point of vulnerability: By focusing on an overwhelming end goal, we forget to measure the little bits of progress made every day.  Rarely does anyone get from here to there without the fortitude successful tracking provides.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the word strategy. Current argument holds that overuse has voided the term of any clear meaning, resulting in strategy (i.e., the how) becoming synonymous with vision (i.e., the what). It seems to me that, much like in our personal lives, business sometimes loses touch with the nuts and bolts of strategy. It’s much easier (and probably more fun) to think about grandiose concepts and rely on clichéd attainment paths than it is to articulate the tactics that turn strategic thought into actionable initiatives. Getting further into the fine print of initiative tracking seems even less sexy. However, because success almost never occurs at metamorphic speed (more often sneaking up on us), we must spend some time considering the resources and metrics that prove progress is being made. 

Visitors of his Autobiography understand that Benjamin Franklin is the Founding Father of translating vision into strategy via initiative tracking. When reflecting on how to live a virtuous life, Franklin doesn’t simply list his initiatives (conveyed, of course, in Franklin’s trademark aphoristic style). No. He sets up a segmented plan and he develops a tracking device, which helps him visualize achieving, for example, temperance. “Eat not to Dullness. Drink not to Elevation” is managed in daily increments by depicting moments of failure on an illustrated chart. Each week introduces a new virtue so that in three months’ time, Franklin’s vision becomes reality. He remarks, “The encouraging Pleasure of seeing on my Pages the Progress I made in Virtue, by clearing successively my Lines of their Spots, till in the End by a Number of Courses, I should be happy in viewing a clean Book after a thirteen Weeks’ daily Examination.” Now, Franklin is famous for his libertine ways—ones which he would hardly deny. We can even picture the self-stylized master rhetorician smirking when writing these words. But Franklin’s charm resides in a subtext of self-deprecation and even earnestness so that we cannot discard what’s sage in these observations. Indeed, it is the pleasure of marking progress that sustains an initiative’s life.

And so, with exercise, discipline, fortitude, goals, strategies, and Ben Franklin in mind, Frost & Sullivan’s Growth Team Membership, in conjunction with SCIP, presents its annual 2014 Corporate Strategy Priorities Survey, with a special interest section devoted to initiative tracking. This survey identifies the key challenges strategists face, particularly when gauging the impact of initiatives, as well as trends in resource allocation. It only takes about eight minutes to complete, and respondents receive a copy of the results. Your input helps us determine where corporate strategy stands and helps you benchmark your efforts. So get to it! In fact, doing so would be downright Franklinian of you.

Jillian Walker is a best practices research analyst with Frost & Sullivan’s Growth Team Membership. Follow her on Twitter @JillianMWalker. All references to the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin can be found through Google Books. 

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