What my IVF ‘Journey’ taught me about strategy

Make your vision very clear and your goal succinct

A strategy that has to be adopted by a work force of 10’s, 100’s or 1,000’s has to be effectively communicated and realistically executable. Once defined the goal needs to be broken down from any highfalutin grandeur and pared down to a simple, easily consumable aim that each individual feels they can influence. Applause for American Express – [be] “the world’s most respected service brand”.

The term ‘fluid plan’ is an annoying new business term which to my mind means ‘we aren’t really sure’; ‘we’ll see what happens’. ‘Strategy as a Pattern’ does form part of Mintzberg’s 5 P’s but can you really expect to make ground and progress if you are just going to go with the flow and see where it takes you?

Back in 2004, after marrying my uni sweet heart, my personal life strategy was very succinct and could be put on the back of that much used fag packet – ‘get me some babies’.

Consider how to get there….

Mother Nature wasn’t being very generous and doctors confirmed the standard route was not an option. So, my goal was clear but as with the approach taken in so many boardrooms I used brainstorming and research to formulate a realistic plan to get me there.

Having milestones such as ‘talk to adoption agency’ & ‘spend 3 months assessing the impact of alternative therapies’ was a bit strange.  This is where years of putting strategic plans in place to hit multi-million pound budgets worked in reverse though and helped me frame my personal life.

All that was needed now was all the outside factors to align themselves with our goal and I would be planning a nursery....

…but be open to changing it.

What?!?    3 whole years later and the very clear goal, involving considerable investments of time, energy and positivity was categorically refusing to convert!

So, after my 2nd failed IVF I realised I couldn’t jump straight back in and follow the same cycle. Having taken learnings from our ‘journey’ (sorry – naff I know!) I took a step back to revise the plan and the timings.  I changed almost everything and stepped up my focus (caffeine and alcohol out completely – weekly acupuncture in).

In business it’s also true that you can’t just plough on blindly determined to reach your goal if the methods you are using aren’t getting you closer to your outcome.

You have to regularly measure yourself against your goals and if things are going wrong learn how to be honest with yourself, your team and your managers/directors.

With a framework that has assigned clear tasks, responsibilities and outcomes it should be easy to see where, or who is not delivering against what was originally anticipated. This transparency should make discussions fact based, conversations less difficult and a revised strategy easy to work on.

Stay resolute

There may be reasons for the focus to dip but there is no excuse for it to entirely disconnect from the day to day. Enthusiasm and passion won’t get you all the way but it will really help.

I was unwavering in my personal goal but have been just as dogmatic with business goals.

MD’s who don’t lay out a clear plan or who communicate ill-considered strategies in a lack lustre way are basically paying for their staff to spend their time speculating – “what is happening?” / “what is going to happen?” And Directors who invest in developing strategies but don’t make sure they are executed are wasting time, money and effort.

Enjoy success and learn from failure

And this is where the analogy stops - If you remember my original goal was to ‘get me some babies’ - I got one but I am grateful every day that 50% of my strategy was achieved. In business there would need to be some extenuating circumstances to accept 50% achievement against a strategic goal.

To continually achieve your strategic goals you must be able to articulate them, break them down, get passionate, get others passionate, stay focused and measure achievement against the milestones. .

Businesses and employees deserve to have goals. In my personal and professional life using these simple principles I have delivered tangible and measurable success (...millions in organic growth /currently about 3ft 6).