Hope is not a strategy

If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is to wake up!
— J M Power

This saying is plastered all over the internet, yet it remains one of the easiest things to remember when you are reflecting on your organisation's strategy. How much of your strategy is based on hope?

  • Hope that the competition doesn't do anything different (or anything at all).
  • Hope that the world stays still (or ideally goes backwards).
  • Hope that the resources you need materialise and that someone is thinking about implementing the strategy.
  • Hope that your strategy makes sense to your team or that they are even aware of it.

Quite simply, if your strategy is based on hope then it is time to rethink your strategy. Hope and optimism are good things in general but your strategy needs to be far more robust and based in your current, and imagined future, reality. A client of mine experienced a significant change of policy from a key funder, one that impacted directly on key aspects of their strategy. Their reaction was 'lets carry on and hope they don't implement' and mine was to advise that they needed to attack, get the policy changed or change your strategy. Hope, as they discovered to their cost, just isn't enough.

Imagine a military leader writing a report saying 'we were outflanked but we carried on and hoped we would win anyway'. You would expect, as would his/her troops, that those in charge would react to this change and develop a sensible and sound response, one that took positive steps to wrest back the advantage. Or at the very least getting the hell out of there and living to fight another day! 

There are two key words in that previous paragraph, react and advantage.  Strategy is essentially about gaining advantage relative to your competition and when the environment changes, or new information is available that materially effects the situation, you must react. Strategy is not a once a year planning exercise focused on the production of an expensive, glossy dust collector, although that seems a popular public sector pastime! Strategy should be the number one board and management agenda item.

So take a moment and have a look at your strategy and consider how much is based on hope? If it is, it's time for action!