Have you ever decided on an idea that you thought was a good idea at the time and then three, six or 12 months later thought, “What were we thinking?”
That often happens to a lot of businesses because, in the middle of working on a strategic plan, very few leaders have clearly articulated criteria or questions they ask themselves to ensure they have the best ideas.
In fact, let me ask you. When you’re in the middle of working on your strategic plan, do you have a set of questions you regularly ask yourself in order to ensure you’re coming up with the right ideas?
Or whenever you’re working on any plan, do you have a checklist of questions that you run through to ensure you’re making the best strategic moves?
If not, you may want to consider using the following four questions. And, even if you do have a list, you may want to consider adding one or more of these to your list of questions so that you have the best chance of coming up with the right slate of strategic moves for your business or organization.
I. Is This Idea Big Enough?
If there’s one great Achilles heel for most businesses when they’re working on their strategic plans, this would be it—their plans and ideas are too small. In my Double It course (www.DoubleItPlan.com) one of the checks we go through is, “If executed perfectly, can this idea generate at least a 5% increase in revenue?”
Now, think about that for a second. When you’re finished coming up with your ideas for how to grow your company, do you ever check to see if the revenue generated would actually move the needle for your business? I’ve done this long enough to know the answer for most business owners, entrepreneurs and CEOs is, “No.”
But if you have at least five growth accelerators and all five generate at least a 5% increase in year-over-year revenue growth, you would have a minimum of 25% growth. And 25% growth compounded over three years equals 98% growth, effectively doubling a business. Even better, if some of those ideas generate more than a 5% increase, you can double your business in 12-24 months.
However, none of that will happen if the idea that you’re considering isn’t big enough to move the needle. So is the idea you’re considering big enough? Will it move the needle? Is it worth your time and effort … or not?
II. Will This Create a Competitive Advantage for Us?
If you’ve been reading my work for a while you know that one of my favorite lines on this subject comes from David Neelman when he was at Jet Blue and said (in response to a question about competitive advantage), “Every week we ask ourselves three questions.
1. What do we do better than them?
2. What do they do better than us? And
3. How can we do that better than them?”
David got it that competitive advantage is so important to the success of a business that it needs to be asked all the time. Creating a compelling answer to the question, “Why should anyone choose to use us and our products and services over every other option in our market space?” is one of the most important and critical strategic questions any business leader can ask and answer. And should on a regular basis.
From a strategic vantage point, selecting an idea that will better position you as different and unique (not as a “similar” or “also” or “interchangeable” solution) would make a great strategic decision. So, what ideas are you considering that might create a competitive advantage for your business?
III. Will This Help Us Fulfill Our Mission and Vision?
It seems funny to have to list this question here, but it’s not. One of the unfortunate experiences of reviewing a lot of company plans is that they often forget to look at the mission and vision of their company when creating their plans—and that’s a significant error.
On the other hand, when you do review your mission (or vision), it can change everything. For example, the USTA’s mission of “To promote and develop the growth of tennis,” is one of the most operational mission statements I know of. Everything they do flows out of that statement.
“Will this idea help us promote the game of tennis?”
“Will this idea help us grow the game of tennis?”
And that focus on those two missional ideas is why, over the past decade, tennis has been the only major sport to grow in participation. Hum …. wonder why? 🙂
So what are your mission and vision statements? And do you run your ideas past them to ensure they’re in alignment?
In addition, do you look at your mission and vision statements during your ideation phase to see if there are some ideas that will help you fulfill your mission and vision?
For example, when the executive team of the USTA reviewed their mission, they realized that they needed to change the game of tennis for children to make it easier for them to play in order to grow the game of tennis. In light of that (and in coordination with their vendors and partners) they then created new smaller racquets, changed the rules of tennis for kids, created a larger tennis ball, shrunk the tennis court for kids, and recruited top players and coaches to help launch the initiative—all of which was missionally driven.
IV. Do We Possess (or Could We Acquire) the Competency and Capacity to Deliver on This Idea?
What good is an idea if it can’t be executed? Or, to put it another way, if you can’t successfully implement an idea, don’t put it in a plan.
However, don’t rush to excise your “can’t execute yet” ideas too fast. The beauty of strategy is that it doesn’t have to be built on existing competencies or existing capacities. Strategy is about what you want to become.
In other words, if you have an idea that requires additional capacity or competencies that you don’t currently possess, don’t throw it out yet. Too many businesses and leaders make that mistake.
Instead, ask the follow-up question, “Can we acquire the additional capacity or competencies required to turn this idea a growth accelerator?” If yes, then go for it (that is, if you can acquire what you need to successfully complete your initiative at a profitable rate).
So there you have it. If you want to accelerate the growth of your business, then you have to ensure you have the best possible ideas for growing your business. And one of the best ways to ensure you’re coming up with the best possible ideas is to have a slate of questions you run though before finalizing your plan. The following four are worth adding to your list.
1. Is This Idea Big Enough?
2. Will This Create a Competitive Advantage for Us?
3. Will This Help Us Fulfill Our Mission and Vision?
4. Do We Possess (or Could We Acquire) the Competency and Capacity to Deliver on This Idea?
If you’ll start asking and answering those four questions on a more consistent basis, you’ll be way ahead of your competition and on your way toward dominating your market!
To your accelerated success!
P.S. If you have some other questions you like to ask, make sure you add them to the comments section below (or click here >> if you’re reading this by email or RSS feed).
P.P.S. If you haven’t taken advantage of my course on Double It: How to Double Your Business in the Next 6, 12 or 24 Months, you may want to do so now. Not only will you get access to last year’s recordings, you’ll also get this year’s recordings when I record them on December 11th and 19th (or you can listen to the live broadcast on those days). So order now and get a head start on the process!