Grand Ambitions Will Ruin You

Grand ambitions have their place in strategic planning. After all, a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) is one of the sections in our strategic planning tool. You have to think big thoughts and have grand ambitions to keep the game interesting for yourself.

But your BHAG and grand ambitions only inform your strategic planning. They guide your executive thoughts and decisions. You have to keep your eye on the ball, and that’s what these things help you do. But if you set out to achieve too much, you set yourself up for failure.

Strategic execution, on the other hand, requires focus.


Strategic Projects are the top 3 Projects your organization will allocate people, time and resources to implementing in the coming year or quarter. The most important thing about defining a strategic project is that it has to be “owned” by someone. And for that to be fair and effective, it has to be so clearly defined that that person, and everyone involved, will know when it’s been accomplished.

A lot of executives have a hard time with this. Strategy is developed at the executive level—but implementing it involves individuals in specific departments.

Executive-level ambitions like “bigger contracts with bigger clients” can only happen after you have your strategic execution in place. Can “contracts” be owned by only one person? Usually not; you probably have sales, operations and legal involved. If sales successfully goes after bigger contracts with bigger clients only to find that you don’t have the bandwidth to actually serve those clients, that’s extremely frustrating. Or, if sales and operations are ready to go but legal can’t produce a contract fast enough to close the deal on the client’s timeframe, that roadblock can be demoralizing for all involved.

Most Strategic Projects require cross-departmental cooperation. For that to make any sense, every person involved has to understand your whole strategy, how the Strategic Project contributes to it, and what, exactly, they are supposed to deliver.

Accomplishing that level of comprehension is not as hard as it sounds. It starts with your own clarity. When you understand your Strategic Plan and your Strategic Projects thoroughly enough to explain them to anyone, then you’re ready. First, you need to share your Strategic Plan with your whole team. And then, it requires structured and strategically focused meetings. (The ResultsBI platform, of course, optimizes this whole process.)


The last thing you need to do is to be fully present at those meetings. Once a team or group of teams understands their Strategic Project, the last and most important step is to make sure that they think they have everything they need to accomplish it.

The more closely you listen to their perceived needs, the better you will understand how to make sure they get to where you want them to go. As an executive or entrepreneur, your job is to then listen very carefully. Help them refine what they are saying so that your managers can break strategic execution down into very real activities.

Be responsive; some of their requests might be out of scope, but you need to address them anyway. If they ask for simple things, simply hand them over, so they feel supported. That way, when you review their progress in your meetings, you can have expectations that everyone feels are reasonable and attainable.

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