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August 9, 1992

Structure

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Every good idea must settle into a container to reach its optimal value.

The idea that can serve as the seed of your next great strategy can come from almost anywhere. You notice an unmet need out there in the world and start wondering how you could fill the gap. While you’re taking a shower or running on the treadmill, your subconscious is humming away. You happen to talk to someone who’s offbeat, or visit someplace that’s off the beaten path, and it explodes an Aha! in your brain.
You’re on your way!
Or at least it seems that way.
Idea generation is crucial. But it doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t do something constructive with the great idea the universe hands you.
Let me put it another way. For a while, it is fine for ideas to simply float around. But an idea that just moves from happy hour to happy hour, or from brainstorming session to brainstorming session, never roots and develops. You need a container for it.
A seed without a pot or a plot of ground to germinate in won’t grow.
With all I’ve said so far about vision and creativity and shaking things up as an organizational strategist, it might seem as if I’ve stigmatized seemingly stiff and boring words such as structure and framework. But the truth is, while there’s no effective strategy these days without intuitive leaps of insight, there does come a time when you’ve got to pour the concrete into a form if you’re ever going to make a foundation out of it.
At the right time, structure isn’t bad. It’s good.
Strategy 3.0 is fast but not formless.
The container or structure you need might take many forms:
• It might be the overall organizational form you use. For example, if you and a friend are passionate about helping the hungry in your city, you might choose to create a nonprofit as the structure to help you feed the poor.
• In a larger organization, it might be the articulated plan or strategy map you’re using for a new venture. An example would be the action plan you put together based on discussions you had at your latest executive retreat.
• It might be the team or group that is leading the strategy. Think of an acquisition team that leads the effort to buy another company.
The form can vary. And not every framework has to be rigid or strict. But every strategy needs some kind of structure if it’s going to go anywhere.
Here’s something I’ve observed. Just as certain people seem to naturally fit best in certain types of companies (a hair-on-fire start-up situation, for example, instead of a more straitlaced major corporation), so different strategies naturally fit best within certain types of structures. A part of your role as leader, then, is to match strategy to structure wisely.
What are you trying to achieve with your amazing new idea? What form will give the best shape to the idea and produce the outcome you want?
Don’t despise structure. Use structure. For only when you have structure in place can you test the operational viability of your plan, estimate your people needs, get an accurate idea of costs, gauge the true returns you can expect, and see what else still needs to be done. Only through structure can you get anything done.
Put your strategy in a container and thrive.

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