Fundamentally, decisions are about change. Each time we make a decision—whether it is about which new technology to buy or new business to get into, we have the potential to alter our future in some way. (I say “potential,” because a decision without action counts for nothing.)
Absent a decision, two things can happen: either nothing changes and we continue on our current path, or changes happen to us, not by us. The first decision is simply the decision to change.
The second decision is “What are our goals or objectives2 for the change?” A goal or objective may be experimental, such as “Figure out how to turn beach sand into a digital device component.” Or it may be concrete and specific, such as “Become the industry leader in same-day package delivery.” Both types of goals or objectives share a look forward to what could be, not what already is. They become milestones for guiding and measuring progress.
Business leaders who think strategically have an opportunity to make decisions about different—and hopefully better—futures. Typically, strategic thinkers take their own gut instincts, mix in industry and competitor information, and recollect stories of what worked in the past. These activities validate and confirm past decisions; they speak little to what the future should be.
Once goals and objectives are drafted, work back through each condition or criteria that must be met. Start with…
1 "Explory" is a word I coined for a story that has not yet been told. Derived from "exploratory."
2 Although it does not really matter at this point, it will help to distinguish between a goal and an objective. A "goal" is a general, non-specific direction, for example, "Become the best team in major league sports." An "objective" is focused and measurable, for example, "Achieve 10% market share with 50% margins within the next five-year period."