Aspiration before Action–or the other way around?

posted by WMC

Is it just me, or have we all been hearing the word aspiration a lot lately?  There was a time when those in charge of strategy talked about nothing but actions—what are we going to do? and how will we measure it? This was strategy in their minds.  Now there seems to be constant talk about aspirations—what do we want the world to look like in the future?   Is this the ‘now’ view of strategy?

This shift in focus made me wonder how aspirations and actions fit together.  And the conclusion was obvious.  That one informs the other.  That action without aspirations seems pointless.  And that aspiration without actions is powerless.

The lesson I’ve learned over years of facilitating strategy sessions is that soaring high to look across the landscape tells you whether the journey in the end will be worth it.  And looking deep before climbing high, tells you whether you’re heading up the right mountain—one that you have the ability to scale.

For example, if you must pick profit as an aspiration (not my first choice), imagining how you might go about it will influence how high you set your aim.   Likewise, sketching out an aspirational vision at the start will help steer your strategic thinking in the right direction.

So back to the conclusion.  Good strategic planning is an interactive process.  To dream beyond the limitations of today is essential, because without dreams we stand still.  But exploring what we can and cannot do is also important, to position the dream at bold but achievable heights.  That’s the only way to change the meaning of the word aspiration from hope to an ambition—one that is within one’s true powers of achievement.

Ludmila Jagiellicz is a consultant at our Vancouver office. To see her LinkedIn article, click here.

The opinions represented here do not necessarily represent WMC’s views as a whole.