Strategic Wins: Small Steps and Big Gains

Success is often a matter of degrees. It’s frequently the difference between making that final push—doing that something extra—versus proudly saying “well, we sure gave it our best shot.”

How many football games have been won or lost because the ball just made it inside or just missed outside of the uprights? How many races have literally been won “by a nose?”

Consider the following from the world of sports:

  • Between 2002-2014, the most common margin of victory in the NFL was 3 points.
  • During the 2015-2016 NBA season, with an average of 205 combined points scored per game, the most common margin of victory was only 5 points.
  • Between 2005-2015, the average margin of victory between 1st and 2nd place in the Indy 500 was .79 seconds (.06 seconds in 2014).
  • During the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, women’s cycling gold was determined by less than 6 seconds, and the men’s 100m, securing Usain Bolt’s “triple-triple” gold, was decided by a mere .09 seconds.

The point of these examples isn’t necessarily about winning versus losing, or even about what we all know can be a staggering financial difference between first and second place in professional sports. Rather, it’s the difference that just a little improvement or a little bit more effort can make in the results.

How close are you and your organization to making a significant difference if you only give it that little bit of extra oomph?

Author S.L. Parker puts it another way. “At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils. And with boiling water, comes steam. And with steam, you can power a train. Applying one extra degree of temperature to water means the difference between something that is simply very hot and something that generates enough force to power a machine.”

So where do these incremental opportunities lay for making significant differences in our own organization’s results? They are in the way we think as an organization. Those who think strategically, continually recognizing disruptors and scanning for threats and opportunities, give themselves a distinct competitive advantage.

Unless your organization already has a culture of thinking strategically, you likely need to be deliberate in creating an environment that encourages opportunities for strategic thought. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be hard. These opportunities can exist when you:

  • Utilize strategic planning to set stretch goals for the organization.
  • Dedicate a block of time at every board meeting to allow for open dialogue about the organization and the industry you represent.
  • Use consent agendas at board meetings to free up time otherwise consumed by routine business and reports.
  • Orient board members on how to effectively focus strategically versus tactically, understanding it’s the difference between talking about “what” the organization is doing rather than “how” the organization is doing it.
  • Set time aside quarterly, or at least semi-annually, for the professional staff to unplug and think big picture.
  • Find opportunities for volunteer leadership, as well as staff, to network and learn from your peers throughout the greater association community.

It all starts with a genuine desire to take your organization to the next level. From there it’s simply about creating and honoring opportunities that encourage volunteer and professional leadership to engage in strategic thought that just might provide you with the extra push that gets you there.

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