Make Your Own Map
eBook - ePub

Make Your Own Map

Career Success Strategy for Women

Kathryn Bishop

  1. English
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eBook - ePub

Make Your Own Map

Career Success Strategy for Women

Kathryn Bishop

Dettagli del libro
Anteprima del libro
Indice dei contenuti

Informazioni sul libro

There's no such thing as a pre-set path to career success. Following the footsteps of others can only get you so far - and for women, there are often additional obstacles. But what if you could design your own path to your career goals? What if you could Make Your Own Map? Based on material from the popular Women Transforming Leadership course from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, Make Your Own Map will help you develop a resilient and aspirational strategy for your career - whatever your starting point. Effective methods of strategic planning have been tried and tested in the corporate business world, and this book shows you how to repurpose those methods for yourself, even if you're not in the corporate world. Packed with strategic tools and practical exercises, this book will help you:
-Assess and define your career goals
-Make a plan
-Implement your plan to find the work that fits your needs, your skills, and your direction.With your best career as the goal, this book will help you forge your own path and Make Your Own Map.

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Kogan Page

Devising a strategy for you: the Strategy Triangle

What sort of strategy process will work best for you?
This chapter will give you an overview of the process set out in this book to make your own map, constructing your strategy for you. We’ll draw the comparison with corporate strategy, looking at what strategy is and how it’s formulated, but we’ll focus on the way this will work for you as an individual.

Why this matters to you

During any strategy process, we aim to find the answers to some important questions. Where am I trying to get to? What shall I do next? How shall I get there? These are the right questions, but although they are easy to ask, they are usually very hard to answer. There are so many aspects to consider and the answers are likely to have a huge impact on the future. So any strategy process has to be both broad and rigorous – and that’s why organizations pay so much attention to it. And that’s also why there are so many strategy tools, taught in business schools and published in business books.
So, what sort of process will work best for you? This chapter answers that question, with an overview of a strategy process that works for individuals. Subsequent chapters contain a selected set of ideas, models and exercises to help you. Some of them may appeal to you more than others and some will have particular relevance for you. Some may look as if they won’t be as helpful to you at the present, but they might still be worth trying, because they’ll help you see your working life from a different perspective.

The idea

Strategy is one of those words which is used all the time but which means different things to different people. It is often part of the job description of senior leaders – its origins in the Greek word strategos, meaning a military leader, clearly connects it with leadership.
Formulating strategy is about setting a direction for the organization or entity as it moves forward. It implies taking action to create its future rather than simply arriving at tomorrow. Strategy is also about story – the narrative about where we are trying to get to, and why. Strategic decisions can be large or small in scale, and can encompass the short, medium and long term. This set of definitions underlines the point: strategy formulation can be complicated, so the clearer and more straightforward the process the better.

The three elements of strategy

When we talk about strategy, the conversation covers three different elements: purpose; resources and skills; and external opportunities. One of the most brilliant strategy professors I know, Professor Marcus Alexander, uses this diagram to represent these three elements of strategy.
Figure 1.1 The Strategy Triangle
Professor Marcus Alexander’s strategy triangle. The vertices of the triangle represent purpose, opportunities and resources and competences. The left side represents internal and the right side represents external.
Adapted from Professor Marcus Alexander’s Strategy Triangle
The diagram reminds us that in formulating strategy, you need to generate insights about all three elements. But you also need to understand the links and interactions between them and keep the three in balance. As an introduction to our strategy process, let’s look at each aspect.
Much strategy work focuses on articulating where you are aiming to get to; this is sometimes called the ‘vision’ or ‘mission’ school of strategy. You may have worked in an organization with a framed vision statement on the wall, listing its aims, beliefs and values. These statements have been a long-standing business fad and may motivate some people. But one definition of ‘vision’ is ‘an unreal dream’ or ‘a supernatural apparition’, and, over time, these framed statements can grow stale. That’s why we will talk about purpose, rather than vision. Purpose statements articulate what you are for and why, and if they are clear enough, they help to generate the kind of implementable strategy which will lead to sustained success.
The second aspect of strategy is resources: the skills and capabilities you have and the time and energy you want to devote to your working life. In organizational terms, that’s about the people in the organization and the other resources that the organization possesses, such as money, time, information, equipment or even reputation. Of course, these resources can be developed or acquired – for example, when an organization acquires another business, or invests in hiring new staff with key skills. For us as individuals, the development of our skills is an obvious part of implementing our strategy, but there are various options for how we might do this and what to focus on – and that, too, is a part of our strategy.
The third aspect is the external focus on possible opportunities which the organization could respond to and thus generate value and deliver good results. The link between this aspect and the other two is important: all three should be logically aligned. In other words, the ideal opportunity is one which is in line with your purpose and for which you have the right resources. Business school strategy lectures sometimes appear to emphasize this external aspect over the others, partly because it’s the least controllable. Some strategy processes involve enormous amounts of market analysis because new opportunities may suddenly arise which may not be part of the original purpose. Take a business example: a UK bookseller was originally set up to sell niche or hard-to-find books but grew into a major player in the Australian market by spotting an opportunity. Even though they had no physical presence there, they identified an opportunity in the Australian tax regime on book pricing: books sent into Australia from abroad attracted no tax and were therefore cheaper to buy. Spotting opportunities like this and capitalizing on them allowed them to become one of the fastest growing booksellers in Europe.
This idea of seizing the opportunity is relevant to us as individuals, too. If you suddenly get a surprising phone call from a headhunter or recruitment consultant about a job which you would not normally consider or didn’t even know existed, take the call – it might be worth it. Sometimes it leads to a new and very successful route. There’s an important point about strategy here: it’s not a rigid constraint, with a plan set in concrete, but an iterative process which helps you to respond successfully to the constant changes in your life and your world.
The Strategy Triangle diagram is also a good way of illustrating what might happen if the three elements get out of balance. The neat equilateral triangle might be warped and distorted, with some obvious pitfalls. For example, too much focus on the external opportunities might cause an organization to spread its resources on a range of activities which are not core to its business. The point is the same for individuals: although an opportunity-led career strategy seems increasingly common in a turbulent, fast-changing marketplace, it has some risks. New opportunities might arise which seem fascinating and worth exploring, but they might also take you down a cul-de-sac in career terms which could be hard to escape.
Equally, organizations which are too internally focused spend management time and energy on internal change programmes which take so long that they miss the very market opportunity they were trying to address. That’s true for individuals too: all development is beneficial, but if you can’t use what you learn on a development programme or training course, your new skills will fade over time and won’t pay off in terms of progress and achievement at work. Finally, an excessive focus on a tightly defined purpose or aim might make an organization rule out some interesting new opportunities which it could easily benefit from – and that’s true for us, too.
So the message of the Strategy Triangle is that the three elements are interlinked, and a change in one aspect will cause change in at least one other aspect, too. Here’s an example of this in Nina’s story.
CASE STUDY New skills, new opportunity, new direction
When she was promoted to operations team leader at an international gas company, Nina discovered that her new role meant that she spent most of her time working with the IT department. That hadn’t been in the job description! Every time there was a new systems development project, she was the person assigned to work on it, because she really understood the operational processes. ‘The trouble was,’ she told me, ‘that I didn’t know much about technology. It’s boring to have to ask for explanations all the time, and I felt like I was always one step behind. It wasn’t that enjoyable.’ So, almost as an experiment, and without telling anyone, she booked herself onto an introductory ‘learn to code’ weekend. ‘I was very surprised – it was quite interesting! And I could do it!’ Of course, this still didn’t solve the problem at work, so she signed up for a longer online programme, covering the fundamentals of both IT and coding. ‘That really helped. After about 18 months, I knew enough about the field – or at least felt that I did – to hold my own in meetings. I got on better with team members, and I think we made better decisions because we had clearer discussions.’ And Nina’s new skills opened up a new opportunity for her: she was invited to apply for a more senior role in the IT team as a business analyst. It had never been part of her plan to move out of front-line operations, but the more she explored this new opportunity, the more interesting it seemed. So, when she was offered the job, she took it – and that took her career in a completely new direction.
Keeping the three elements of the Strategy Triangle in balance is a necessary part of strategy formulation, but it’s also useful in action planning. If you can see the implications of a change in one aspect, you can also see what else needs to change, and plan accordingly. Here’s a hypothetical example: if you suddenly develop an interest in becoming a sports commentator but you currently have neither the relevant skills nor any experience, then, at present, you have a dream rather than a strategy. And the way to turn the dream into more of a reality is obvious if you think about all three elements of the Strategy Triangle: given this particular purpose, think about the opportunities that are out there to get work in the right kind of organization, and consider the resources – skills, energy, time, willingness to relocate, for example – which you might need to develop in order to devise a strategy which you can actually implement.
The connection between the three elements of the Strategy Triangle, with both the internal and external focus, will help you to organize your strategy thinking. It will help you decide what to do, as well as what not to do. Sometimes, it’s absolutely the right strategic decision to say no to a new opportunity because it doesn’t fit with the rest of your life and you don’t want to make the required changes to accommodate it, given where you are now. To be realistic and implementable, strategy has to take into account the constraints under which you work. And the Strategy Triangle can help clarify your choices when situations change and new constraints arise. For example, if you suddenly find that you have to work part-time for a while because of a family issue, in effect your resources have changed because now you have less time to devote to your paid work. So you might find that you need to look for a different kind of opportunity. And perhaps your purpose might also need to alter. Maybe for the next few years your strategy is less about paid progression to senior management and more about finding something relatively interesting and remunerated which allows you enough time and energy to meet your other responsibilities outside work.

Parallels with corporate strategy

Most of the ideas in this book come from mainstream strategy work. They are used by organizations of all kinds from all over the world to help them navigate changing circumstances, to make the best use of their resources in line with their purpose. Their employees want to know what lies ahead and so they have to make a map for their future.
Given how many strategy frameworks and models there are, one of the first questions an organizational strategy team has to answer is: which strategy approach shall we use? Often the choice of the approach is driven by current fashion –...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. List of figures
  2. About the author
  3. Foreword
  4. Preface: why this book is for you
  5. Acknowledgements
  6. Introduction: what this book covers, why it will help, and how to use it
  7. 1 Devising a strategy for you: the Strategy Triangle
  8. Stage ONE Examining the past and present to plan for the future
  9. 2 How you got to where you are now: your Journey Map
  10. 3 What is working well right now: your Personal Dashboard
  11. Stage TWO Envisaging your future: four different approaches
  12. 4 The work that matters most to you: the Ikigai model
  13. 5 The purpose you serve: the story of you
  14. 6 Organizing your working life: your life architecture
  15. 7 What’s worth developing: the Strengths model
  16. Stage THREE Making strategy real
  17. 8 Making a career transition: the Product/Market matrix
  18. 9 Turning your new strategy into action: planning and experimenting
  19. 10 Getting under way: tactics for taking action
  20. References
  21. Further reading
  22. Index