I teach to business students at a local university and start my strategy courses with some version of the following mantra:
We study the frameworks and methodologies of business strategy in order to be structured and systematic in our decision making; to increase our chances of reaching the best available course of action; and as a way to communicate our thought process as leaders so that our ideas might be fully understood, implemented with their aims and constraints in mind, and be openly scrutinized for errors and omissions.
Hardly a class goes by that I do not bring it up in some form. Partly to continue to convey the usefulness of the material. Partly because it may well be the only thing they remember after 5 years. Honestly though, that is probably enough. If you can remember that there are a number of foundational rules by which most successful decision-makers conduct themselves you will know to seek out a refresher when the need arises.
This week was the last of the semester. For the final, student groups presented business plans to the leaders of 4 local organizations. The presentations marked the end of 5 weeks of moderately strenuous group work, the end of a semester full of jargon and case studies, and for most - one of last graded activities of their undergraduate career. I sort of botched it last year by missing an opportunity to say something meaningful to a room full of students and the business and creative leaders to whom they were to present.
Last night I fleshed out the mantra a bit for the occasion:
Being systematic helps you avoid blind spots. Structure and sound assumptions form the foundation of good decisions. They free the creative mind to innovate, and open a world of nearly limitless possibilities for the left-brained.
Better the Odds
None of us see the full future and not enough of us even see the present. When assessing where we are in life or business, if we forget to also look at the assumptions that got us here, we are at a disadvantage in creating the future we want. Goals require vision and action - this is the vision part.
Being a leader does not mean having the right answers so much as it means knowing the right answers when you see them. The system of thinking that derives these answers is also the best way to communicate them to your subordinates and superiors. Strategies without context often have a short shelf life. This is just a process. It is all process. There is only one destination, after all.