I’m a big fan of STaRS
Not stars like the shining balls of fire in the sky, but the business situation assessment framework. I know, I know – it sounds dreadfully boring. I thought so too until I started using it in my everyday life. Now I love it.
What is STaRS?
and why do I keep capitalizing it that way? STaRS comes from the book The First 90 Days, which is written for people who are starting new positions in their career and want to make sure they succeed regardless of what situation the business they are going into is in. I started using it when I was a leadership consultant, as well as when I became the director of a non-profit. I can tell you that it made a big difference for me, and has made a big difference for others I have steered towards it.
So what is it? It is a framework that allows you to walk into a new job and identify which stage that business is in. The book also identifies specific challenges and opportunities for each of those stages as well as strategies for approaching them.
For the sake of this post, we are going to flip the lens around a bit. Instead of talking about business situations, we are going to use the STaRS framework for our own goals and missions. We are going to, for just a little while here, go straight up into our brains and view our endeavors as a business situation.
So what does the acronym stand for?
S – Startup
Ta – Turn-around
R – Realignment
S – Sustaining Success
Everything starts as a Startup. It then goes to one of the other three. In a Realignment, things have gotten a little off track, but are still salvageable. In a Turn-around, things have gone off the rails and need a severe reworking. In Sustaining success the focus changes to staying ahead of the curve. Okay. Let’s dive in a little bit deeper.
This feels mostly self-explanatory. You decided to start something new. Whether it’s a new diet, searching for a new job, or building a whole new life whenever we are starting down a new track we are in a startup situation.
What’s important to know about the startup phase?
- Startups require strategic thinking. Knowing where you want to go is very important. Creating an ideal roadmap is a good start.
- Decision making happens fast and often has to happen without a full understanding of the repercussions of those decisions.
- Because of the volatility that comes from not knowing everything, plans and strategies have to be adaptable and re-assessed often.
- There will be limited existing resources, you likely won’t have a strong team of people supporting you yet, and you will have to create most things from scratch.
- You will have a lot of energy, especially at the beginning, and you can build behavioral patterns that will set you up for success in the long term.
The next situation in the real-life flow of things is Realignment. A realignment situation is one where you have some work to do in order to get pointed back in the correct direction. Maybe you thought things were going swell, but you just aren’t seeing the results you wanted. Perhaps you saw lots of initial success, but then life happened and you got off track. Or maybe your strategy was spot on and worked for a while but now you need a new strategy to take you to the next level of success.
If you recognize the need for realignment congrats; you caught it before it went full Turn-around.
What’s important to know about the realignment phase?
- You will have to challenge your beliefs about the situation. If you are on a diet and that diet worked great up until it didn’t, then it can be really hard to stop believing in that diet.
- It might be really difficult to recognize that you need to change. Especially when the people around you are rooting you on because they don’t see that you aren’t headed in quite the right direction.
- You’ve got a solid knowledge base, so adjusting course is much easier than when you were in startup mode.
- You will need to redirect your resources, like your time and mental energy and possibly your money, to get you pointed back in the right direction.
Uh oh. Turnarounds generally happen when we miss the need for realignment and then let a bad thing keep getting worse. In a turnaround, we switch from recovery straight into crisis. This is where most people realize that they need to change. There is no shame in it, and accepting that you are in a turnaround situation gives you the leverage to make some big changes.
Things to know in this phase:
- You will have to challenge many of your beliefs. You will have to reassess what you are capable of, what isn’t working, who you want to be, and what needs to be gotten rid of. It will probably be incredibly uncomfortable.
- The team of people around you might not be the right team. Whether they are the ones supporting bad decision making, creating pressure to stay unsuccessful, or openly oppose change, finding some folks to help get you where you want to go is key.
- Cutting away all of the layers of your self in order to expose the core will be necessary in order to decide what the best next steps are. It probably isn’t going to feel good.
- There are bound to be a few people who really want you to succeed when you open up to them.
- Making the decision to change and then creating immediate action around that decision is incredibly powerful.
You did things ‘right’! You adjusted where necessary, and you turned around what needed to be turned around. Now is the time to sit back on your laurels and relax, right? Sadly – no. Sustaining success is an important phase to keep you from sliding back into realignment and towards the turnaround. It is still work, although it might feel a little easier.
Here are some important parts of sustaining success:
- The big trick is avoiding decisions that cause problems. You’ve already built the behaviors and habits that created success, now is the time to keep at it. If you have lost a bunch of weight and feel healthy at long last, now is not the time to go on an all-you-can-eat-and-drink cruise while laying around the boat all week long like a beached dolphin. If you finally got your drinking under control it isn’t the time to experiment by going to a birthday party at a bar with all your friends. Keep making those good decisions.
- You probably have some people in your life at this point that are here to support you. Now is a great time to deepen your relationship with them.
- It’s easy to get bored. One of the challenges of sustaining success is finding ways to take yourself to the next level. What little tweaks could you make that would make your situation even better?
- Constant re-assessment. Are you doing what you need to be doing? Are your goals the right goals? How can you help others? Make sure you understand the mission that you are on right now, why are you doing it all?
Give it a try.
Sit down for a moment, pick one of your goals, and for just a moment treat it like a business. If you were to become the CEO of that business which STaRS situation would you classify it as? If you imagine the top three important people in your life becoming the CEO of this business, how would they classify it?
How does STARS change your approach? What would your next step be?
Full Disclosure –
Michael Watkins and the folks at the first 90 days didn’t pay me to rep their product. I got a lot of value out of it personally and wanted to share the love. I DO however make a small commission if you buy the book through this link as an amazon affiliate. If you would prefer to bypass that system and buy it without throwing me a bone, the link is here. Don’t worry, you won’t hurt my feelings.