Strategies @home

May 14, 2007

We spend a lot of time at work coming up with strategies that will ensure our success or, at a minimum, safely differentiate us from the competition. Today, it is often difficult to separate the practices of nonprofit organizations from for-profit organizations when it comes to strategic process. What about another institution that is, perhaps, the most important to us: the home? Where does strategy fit into our life at home?

We spend a lot of time at work coming up with strategies that will ensure our success or, at a minimum, safely differentiate us from the competition. Today, it is often difficult to separate the practices of nonprofit organizations from for-profit organizations when it comes to strategic process. What about another institution that is, perhaps, the most important to us: the home? Where does strategy fit into our life at home?

An early boss of mine said that our behavior at home and our behavior at work are the same. What about our behavior in terms of thinking? Do we maintain the home environment as the place for emotional decisions and use the workplace for more strategic processes?

I happen to do cruise lecturing - the best gig I have ever gotten - and base my material on a course I teach at Stanford called "Tools for Strategic Management." The cruise lectures have titles such as "Strategic Thinking for Humans," "Strategic Thinking at Home," and, most recently, "Sudoku Made Easy." The premise of each lecture is to show that the home is no different from the workplace when it comes to strategic thinking. The material I cover is exactly the same as in my previous articles about strategy development.

A good place to start is with the vision statement (DI SCAN, 5/8/06, How vision determines success). The vision statement applies any time a group or individual wants to accomplish a task. Organizing your thoughts into what you want to achieve (the purpose) and what needs to be done for success (the mission) is most helpful.

Let's consider a purpose aimed at achieving and maintaining good health. Everyone wants it, but very few have a plan. Upon researching the subject, we might find the following strategies necessary to achieve the purpose: food, exercise, stress management, medical care, and relationships. Indeed, when I recently reviewed a number of books on the subject, these were the five areas that regularly appeared.

Let's next turn to the high five (DI SCAN, April, 2006, High 5 highlights importance of understanding competition). The High 5 can be viewed as a quality control program, ensuring that the needs of the customer are consistently met. There's no better area for consistency than in a golf game. After speaking to a number of really good golfers (I'm a poor example), I came up with the following High 5: left arm straight, right elbow tucked into the body, sit down for balance, secure your head, and hit through the ball. I found that by concentrating on the High 5, I was able to develop much better control. When something went wrong, it usually meant that one element of the High 5was not being executed properly.

The High 5also can be useful in selecting a car. The team of people involved in the decision would start by determining the factors of importance to them (performance, cost, etc.) and then rate each car accordingly. By adding some objectivity to the process, the High 5helps keep an emotional response from taking over.

A challenge that we all face both at home and at work is the adoption of new technology. A key ingredient for success is behavior modification. Let's turn to the 2 x 2 for assistance (DI SCAN,August, 2006, Successful technology implementation makes medical imaging tick). Consider a 2 x 2 with the variables being technology (new and old) and process (new and old). Starting with the present situation of old technology/old process, the trick is to reach new technology/new process while avoiding new technology/old process - a major waste of resources, whether we are talking about computers, phone systems, or anything else.

If we don't optimize the process to achieve the benefits of new technology, we are left with significant waste. I almost always suggest first considering old technology/new process - that is, using behavior modification to optimize the present technology before moving on to incorporate the new technology.

Using the above suggestions for strategies @home from the tools we have used in the past, I'm sure you will go on to create many others.

Ronald Schilling is an editorial advisor to Diagnostic Imaging and president of RBS Consulting in Los Altos Hills, CA. Comments can be addressed to ronald11341@aol.com.