Find success by discovering strategic time
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
It is one of the most elusive yet most important activities for any leader today – finding the time for strategic thought and action.
Vince Marsh believes more than 90 per cent of executives will admit to being “stuck in the weeds” – overwhelmed and working at a level of detail that prevents them from tackling the big, important strategic issues and problems they know they should be solving if they could only get to them.
“I’m a big believer that once you get to a more senior level in the organization, you should be working on something that’s more strategic than their day job, at least one project all the time,” Vince told me and Greg Hemmings, my co-host on The Boiling Point podcast.
Marsh, who has 15 years of experience helping leaders of senior teams, literally wrote the book on the issue. Get Out of The Weeds: How Effective Executives Make Strategic Time is a step-by-step guide aimed at helping executives and future leaders find their way out of the weeds by forging strategic time.
“I certainly never thought I’d write a book on the concept of how leaders get out of the weeds or how they make what I call strategic time,” the veteran management consultant and executive coach from Halifax told us in an interview for the podcast. “The idea of doing that was an outgrowth of the work with my clients.
‘The death spiral’
“So many of my clients were in the weeds, and I heard that expression so many times as I was working with senior leaders that I finally decided, gee, someone should write a book about how senior leaders get out of the weeds. That was the impetus for the book.”
Marsh says that, traditionally, strategy was something businesses looked at maybe once a year, possibly less, producing a sort of guiding document. But times have changed and, currently, in the midst of a global pandemic, companies have to be way ahead on strategic planning, not behind.
“When leaders get into the weeds, they actually do things very often that prevent them from thinking strategically, but also prevent their people from being more strategic.“
“They have got to spend some time thinking strategically on an ongoing basis,” he says. “So, I recommend at least once a quarter, the senior team is getting together and spending a half day to a full day really drilling down into the strategy, making sure that it’s still working, taking the feedback from operations and kind of running that through to say, ‘Look, you know, are we learning some things that tell us a strategy is not quite doing as well as it needs to?’
“I think the disruption in the environment has made this a much more important thing.”
Marsh says the worst result of a company with a senior team lost in the weeds is what he calls “the death spiral.”
“When leaders get into the weeds, they actually do things very often that prevent them from thinking strategically, but also prevent their people from being more strategic,” he says.
“They actually drive them deeper into the weeds themselves. And in the book, I have a very simple model, I call it the death spiral. It’s how senior teams drop into the weeds and then they drop everyone else in the organization down further into the weeds,” he says.
“They get into this cycle where they just cannot escape that and it has impacts on talent, it has impacts on strategy and very wide-reaching impacts in the organization. So, it’s a really significant issue for sure.”
For more, watch or listen in to The Boiling Point podcast episode with Vince Marsh.