Aborting Strategy Work for the Ease of Tactical Execution

February 7, 2020 6:23 am

Planning is relatively easy. Come up with a bunch of tactics, assign them to people for execution, keep them accountable for results and progress is hopefully being made.

However,  in the absence of a strategic direction, tactical execution is similar to heading out on a road trip with no set destination in mind. We might see a lot of countryside, meet a lot of people and enjoy the gratification of knowing we have driven many miles but we never actually arrive. We make plans up en-route but given there is no destination in mind, the roads we take and the places we stay are more spontaneous choices along with way—good ideas at the time. This might work for a “let’s see what happens, driving holiday”  but running an effective and profitable organisation in an ever-changing world without an established strategic direction can be extremely ineffective in the long run.

Strategy Work is Destination Work.

Strategy is a thoughtful, top-down process where we define who we are (and who we aren’t) along with where it is we are headed. It doesn’t involve tactics.

For planning and tactics to be effective, they must be formed in relation to, and aligned with, our strategic direction. If they do not represent this “strategic relationship”, they result in a collection of well-meaning but isolated tasks on the road to nowhere.

Strategy work involves looking at some of the following areas:

  1. What is our Purpose?
  2. What is our Vision?
  3. Our Values. What will we stand by?
  4. What are our ideal Markets and where are they based (location)?
  5. Where will our Revenue come from?
  6. Competitive Advantage. What makes us unique and distinct? 
  7. Critical Points. Critical issues needing to be addressed.
  8. Critical Objectives to achieve our vision.
  9. Metrics of Progress.

These all are indicative of the big picture, the ideal future.

The Strategy – Planning Relationship

Below I have sought to represent the relationship between Strategy and Planning to demonstrate how they are linked.

Strategy Planning Relationship

Aborting Strategy with Tactics

Given that strategy is thoughtful and deliberate work, we sometimes opt for getting immediate runs on the board via tactical planning and execution. “We can’t think about this forever so let’s just do something” is the abortion tool. Tactics identified and implemented too early in the strategic identification process aborts strategic clarity and direction. If the strategy is birthed, it is likely to be ill-formed from a shortened incubation period.

The strategic process doesn’t need to be a long process but it does need to:

  • be deliberate and focused;
  • incorporate “what if” scenarios;
  • involve big picture thinking;
  • be exploratory in nature;
  • have everything questioned;
  • be given time to settle and then reviewed;
  • be documented;
  • be embedded in our organisation’s culture.
Dust Covered Strategy

I’ve often come across business strategies and plans in beautiful binders but covered in layers of dust. They were formulated and documented sometime in the past but never seen the light of day for many years.

The strategic document should be a living, breathing piece of work that is constantly reviewed, changed if required and used for all ongoing decision making. “Does what we are planning now, relate to our strategic direction?” is the question that should always be asked when considering tactical planning and execution in any area. This keeps our organisations on track to the pre-established destination. If markets change, new opportunities emerge or disruption is occurring in our industry, the strategy can be reworked where and as required with new plans implemented for its fulfilment.

Summary

Strategy work is thoughtful work and involves thinking and collective senior leadership processing.

It is courageous work because it places us in a short-term zone where we feel we are not doing anything. (From all my work with organisations over the years, thinking and planning time is most often ascribed to as waste). Our penchant is for activity which provides more immediate gratification and the sense of movement, despite the fact that the movement might be in the totally wrong direction.

And it is worthwhile work, driving us into the future with a destination by which we can evaluate everything against.

Most are good at tactical execution but aligning these actions against a clearly defined strategic direction provides a powerful driving force into the future.

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Operations and Strategy: The Two Hats Of Management

May 25, 2018 7:42 am

From Operations To Strategy

I have just completed speaking at a two-day workshop this week with a very astute group of national managers. From delivering approximately 7 hours of content, it gave me a fresh appreciation of just how much we as managers and leaders have to deal with at an operational level on a daily basis. Below is some of the content from one of the sessions that relate to the importance of taking time to lift our eyes to think ‘future’; to disengage our brains from the operational tasks at hand and turn our focus to strategy.

Strategy Operations

The Switch Of Hats

Taking the daily operational hat off to focus on the future can be a challenge for the most adept business owner or manager. The day to day running of our businesses and organisations often demand our all, leaving little energy and focus for anything else.

We tend to get caught up at ground level, fighting fires, dealing with staff issues and meeting budgetary shortfalls. Our minds are on making today happen, often neglecting the future planning and strategic progress that is so essential for success. When this is our ‘normal’, the ideal future gets delayed.

The switch of hats, from operations to strategy needs to be a planned activity as more often than not, does not occur on its own. A study in recent years concerning the disciplines of Australia’s leading CEO’s revealed that of the top three practices, the scheduling of time out for weekly review and reflection along with planning the future were paramount to their success. A further study by the Centre for Management and Organizational Effectiveness (CMOE) that surveyed a wide range of influential US executives indicated that on average 25 minutes per day were spent on strategising.

We would do well to practice the same. Being able to jump off at regular intervals the business or organisational boat we are sailing on; to sit on the sand and stare out at the horizon – thinking, planning, reflecting, will help us when jumping back onto the boat in operational mode. Timeout spent in this manner will enable us to take the ship more directly to its destination.

These are some areas to centre on when practising this:
• Review of progress and results in recent days and weeks – the good, the bad, the ugly
• Key issues requiring immediate attention
• Activities that are irrelevant to the current journey and need to be stopped
• What were the successes and how can we further build on them?
• What is our destination?
• Are we on track as far as the milestones previously established?

Taking time out to Review, Reflect and Plan is essential for managers and owners if they are to effectively lead and manage a growing organisation.

Review
Is about looking back at the past week, month, year or years to see what has ACTUALLY happened in terms of numbers, key indicators, growth or decline, staff, inefficiencies, successes etc.
Reflect
What is the review process and actual data communicating? Taking time to reflect on the meaning of this is essential for the next stage.
Plan
Based on what HAS taken place and in light of your key goals, how do we continue progressing from here to there? From actual to ideal. What do we need to do, change and enact in order to drive this ship forward? Planning is also about scheduling the key activities identified from the above process into your calendar. It assists in taking it from your mind to the page, to the actual operational (action) stage.

If you are similar to me, spending too much time at the coal face of operations can make one a little weary over time. Taking time out in order to think future; while advantageous for our organisations, it can also return significant benefits to our personal lives and can be its own source of inspiration and freshness.

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Releasing Control. If it is to be, it’s up to me and THEM.

March 25, 2018 7:33 pm

You’ve probably heard the saying “if it is to be it’s up to me.” While the quote holds water on some levels it’s quite leaky in others.

For a variety of reasons, business owners, managers and leaders find it hard to let go. “No one can do it as well as me” is one of those ‘reasons’ and an oft-repeated phrase I hear.

Businesses often hit this challenge when they reach growth ceilings. The organisation has grown to the extent where the owner or managers can’t effectively be involved in everything, yet work excessively long hours and weeks in an attempt to maintain control.

The challenge at this point is to reconfigure the above saying to “if it is to be, it’s up to me and THEM.”

Moving from a small enterprise mindset to a larger enterprise mindset; to move from the current operating level to the next; to move through those inhibiting ceilings of growth prevention, we have to release control.

We move from:

  • me doing it, to training
  • others to do it and then,
  • releasing them to do it.

As we release others to take over our previous tasks we then establish checks and balances along with key data reports to ensure the just in time reporting of quality, timeliness, customer satisfaction, financial results etc.

We move from maintaining control through doing it all ourselves to controlling the organisation through effective planning, the utilisation and management of others and progress reporting.

Yes, there will be the pain in the process and yes, others will falter along the way. But if we want to progress upwards, making the shift from me to them is well worth acting upon.

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Happy New Year

January 6, 2015 6:59 am

Happy New Year!

The changeover period tends to lend itself quite naturally to looking ahead, thinking, creating plans and then pushing the action buttons. In my recent newsletter I have written about optimism balanced by realism. I find that the two are perfect partners when it comes to business growth. Facing and then countering market conditions, changing economics, increased competition, challenging staff, low cash flow and the like yet holding an unremitting optimism is one of the things that sets the resilient and successful apart.

I wish you all the best for the year ahead.

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Thoughts on Planning

December 15, 2014 12:51 am

At this time of year our thoughts tend to wander over the bridge into the following year. For some it is the hope of a better season to come, grateful that the current year is coming to an end. For others it is to capitalise on an already excellent year and grow to a whole new level whether in business, personally, financially and so on.

Here are two focal areas to help  you as you enter the New Year.

  • Get present with the past. Jot down the positive outcomes for the year past and the challenges and disappointments you experienced.
  • Create your future.
    • What would you like the coming year to contain?
    • What are the areas of growth you would like to see?
    • What relational, familial areas do you need to work on?
    • What are the personal growth and fun zones you would like to enter and develop? eg. learning to dance, cook, ski, fitness levels
    • What would you like your bank balance and debt levels to be by years end?
    • Where can you take your business or career in the next twelve months? What are the areas you need to work on to ensure you are growing and moving toward the next summit?

I have been aware over the past few months that we are really growing or declining. Strengthening or weakening. After all, plateaus of safety and comfort eventually erode if left to their own devices.

Best,
Ray

Planning Template for Business Owners.Click here

Ignition Coaching Program. Click here
Take advantage of my Christmas offer. Register by Dec 24th 2014 and receive either 3 months additional time (valued at $4000) or take 10% of the current price.

 

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Hitting Goals Through Weekly Standards

September 18, 2014 12:01 am

Having weekly standards creates momentum and progression toward our goals. Here are some examples:

Goal – lose 3 kg
Weekly standard – walk 150 min; chocolate on weekends ONLY

Goal – 4 quotes sent per week
Standard – make 5 calls per day

Goal – enquiries to increase by 10%
Standard – monthly newsletter, weekly blog, daily social media update and radio presence

Too often a goal is set without scheduling daily and weekly standards that will contribute toward the achievement of that goal. Schedule the standard activities and you will move toward your goals at a more rapid pace.

 

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Efficiency Tip #8

September 4, 2014 10:23 pm

Tips for increasing your daily efficiency:

  1. Use a diary – electronic or paper
  2. Plan tomorrow today
  3. Use a headset when on the phone and deal with what you can immediately. e.g. send the email you promised, the meeting invite, book the job in etc.
  4. Arrive to appointments 10 minutes early
  5. Discard the To Do list and schedule tasks directly into your diary
  6. Become outcomes driven not time driven. ie. if you set aside time for marketing, the outcomes might be to arrange two meetings for next week. Once achieved move onto the next thing
  7. Limit distractions.Turn your phone onto silent (or give to your assistant) and turn email alerts off while working on the important. Make callbacks and reply to emails at scheduled daily intervals
  8. Return calls within three hours and emails same day
  9. Learn to travel light without checked baggage
  10. Conduct stand up meetings when there are only a few quick things on the agenda
  11. When a meeting is near completion stand up and walk toward the door. The attendees will follow suit
  12. Work with a sense of urgency and speed
  13. Keep yourself rested and refreshed

 

 

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Simple Change Process

July 20, 2014 10:43 pm

Simple process to dramatically cut waste and streamline for improved performance…

  • Measure current results; map relevant processes
  • Identify waste in processes
  • Set improvement goals
  • Create change strategy
  • Implement strategy
  • Manage changes
  • Rinse and repeat
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When Operations Impede Progress

March 27, 2014 4:41 am

Taking the daily operational hat off to focus on the future can be a challenge for the most
adept business owner or manager. The day to day running of our businesses and
organisations often demand our all, leaving little energy and focus for anything else. We tend
to get caught up at ground level, fighting fires, dealing with staff issues and meeting budgetary shortfalls. Our minds are on making today happen, often neglecting the future planning and strategic progress that is so essential for success. When this is our ‘normal’, the ideal future gets delayed. The switch of hats, from operations to strategy needs to be a planned activity as more often than not, does not occur on its own.

A study in recent years concerning the disciplines of Australia’s leading CEO’s revealed that of the top three practices, the scheduling of time out for weekly review and reflection along with planning the future were paramount to their success. We would do well to practice the same. Being able to jump off at regular intervals the business or organisational boat we are sailing on; to sit on the sand and stare out at the horizon – thinking, planning, reflecting, will help us when jumping back onto the boat in operational mode. Time out and spent in this manner will enable us to take the ship more directly to its destination. These are some areas to centre on when taking practising this discipline:
– Review of the progress and results in recent days and weeks – the good the bad the ugly
– Key issues requiring immediate attention
– Activities that are irrelevant to the current journey and need to be stopped
– What were the successes and how can we further build on them?
– Where are we sailing to? What is our destination? Are we on track as far as the milestones previously established?

Taking time out to Review, Reflect and Plan is essential for managers and owners if they are to effectively lead and manage a growing organisation.

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Think Outcomes, Not Goals

April 30, 2013 2:58 am

If you’ve been in business for any length of time you’ve heard time and again about the importance of goal setting. Goalposts, as in football, help us define our aim and assist in directing our energy toward that end. The goal scored provides the outcome we are after points against the opposition.

Often times though, a subject can lose its power. We read about goal setting, attend seminars, try our best to action what we’ve learned but still seem to head toward the oppositions goals. Deflating!

Here’s a twist on goal setting.

Think outcomes not goals.

Outcomes are the results that ‘come out’ over a set period of time and from specific activities. For example, heading into today we could set the following:

1. Call key prospects and set two new appointments for next week

2. Follow up 4 previous clients to see how they are progressing and communicate the latest products available

3. Complete ABC Pty Ltd quote and post

4. Visit each of my staff over the day and express how much I value them

5. Knock off at 4pm for an hour’s exercise before dinner

Five outcomes that are easily achievable and measurable. At days end you will have the satisfaction of tangible results from your planning and actions.

Outcomes can be set for any period of time and in any area of life. Try it for a week. You might just find a new sense of success, the feeling of a job well done and that you’re not simply sitting around watching the opposition beat the pants off you.

Good luck!

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10 Momentum Builders for 2013

November 13, 2012 4:14 pm

1. CHECK CASHFLOW
Cashflow is critical at this time of year and can be a momentum robber. Check how you’re placed through till mid February; get onto outstanding receivables and send out as many invoices as possible. Stagger payments to creditors as appropriate.

2. CLEARING BOTTLENECKS
Identify key inefficiencies within your organisation outlining a plan to deal with them. Complete anything you’ve been procrastinating on.

3. ASCERTAIN KEY PRIORITIES
Determine what key things, if done now, will launch you into the New Year with the least amount of resistance. Focus only on these.

4. TAKE TIME FOR PLANNING
Plan 2013, scheduling your holidays first. Plan in items such as personal and staff development, marketing and sales strategy, financial requirements, travel etc.

5. ESTABLISH YOUR GOALS
Establish 7 goals you’d like to accomplish next year. They should include business and personal.

6. PREPARE YOUR TEAM
Ask your people what they’d like to see in 2013 and then communicate your vision. Collaboration increases employee engagement.

7. GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS AND KEY PROSPECTS
Now is a great time to be sending cards, giving gifts, calling your customers. Identify the top 20% and treat them preferentially.

8. MAKING THE PHONE RING IN JANUARY
What marketing can you do NOW to get the phone ringing in January? Who can you set appointments with? What offer can you send out NOW that will build momentum?

9. WHAT TWO THINGS DO YOU WANT TO DO DIFFERENT IN 2013?
This might relate to closing down a section of your business, a new market to explore, training your staff, increasing your management effectiveness and so on.
10. GET SOME REST
Use the break to get some rest, find some refreshment, get inspired. Running a business is a tough gig and you deserve to put your feet up.
Good luck and all the best for 2013.

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