Success by Design
A democratic system is synonymous with change. Along with our electoral cycles come changes to our economic development landscape. How do we remain focused and effective when surrounded by so many moving parts?
It may seem counter-intuitive but being nimble and operating in a constantly changing environment does in fact require a strategy. It most definitely requires certain skillsets.
A solid economic development strategy must begin with a scan of the current environment, which, as noted earlier, changes rapidly. Political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal factors all play a role in shaping the environment. These factors change on a daily, even hourly, basis, and must constantly be revisited. Consider how the organisation is impacted vis à vis these factors, and revisit strategy often enough using tools such as SWOT analysis to determine if tweaks, or course corrections, are required.
A strategy is a road-map forward but must not be so rigid as to limit opportunities. The most successful strategies allow for a balance. We can choose to drive, to fly, to go by rail or by boat; even a combination of one or more of the above. You can choose the fastest route, the cheapest route, or the most scenic. Although the ultimate destination remains the same, travel plans may change.
Most Canadians attempting to travel anywhere in the winter are well-aware of this challenge! Environment is often uncontrollable. Flights are delayed; weather happens. What is controllable is your reaction to that environment. Rare is a journey that goes exactly as planned and your ability to stay focused on your ultimate destination is key!
Leading the implementation of a strategy requires that ability to focus on the goal. Organisational core values, vision, and mandate must be defined and revisited periodically. These values are at the heart of any strategy and must permeate the entire culture of the organisation. With this foundation, when the organisation is being pulled off course, and it most certainly will be, a solid strategy with a clear vision will provide the course correction.
Allocating resources, and leveraging those resources is key – from dollars to HR, from physical assets to technology, how will they be applied most effectively? The greatest of strategies are meaningless without solid operational decisions. As with the strategy, implementation must be nimble and responsive to the constantly changing environment.
Communicating the strategy in a clear, succinct way is essential. Partners and stakeholders must understand the strategy and how actions line up with both shared and individual goals. Clear lines of communications are critical to the success of all partnerships, we must all be pulling in the same direction. Internal and external communication are equally important and must be considered on an ongoing basis.
Success must be defined and measured. When deciding what to measure, ask yourself and your partners ‘what is in our control?’. What will be measured must be within the control of the organisation and its’ partners, otherwise it is not a true measurement of impact. This is particularly true in the field of economic development, where success depends on activated and coordinated partnerships as well as criteria outside of any one organisations’ control.
A rational, clear-headed approach, grounded in core values, enhanced by communication, and informed through frequent environmental scanning will most certainly increase strategic impact in your region. Keep your eye on the destination!
Angélique LeBlanc is CEO of the Western Regional Enterprise Network and teaches Strategic Management at Université Sainte-Anne.