Monday, 20 January 2014

Implementing strategy is hard work - but you can get out of it

I've been involved in strategy for long enough to know that formulating and implementing it is almost always hard work. (Although hard work which is so rewarding never seems quite that onerous!)

Over the years I've seen a large number of people avoid the hard work of strategy implementation by employing a simple little trick: when presented with a new strategy and asked to commit to delivering it, simply say:
That's a really great strategy and I'm totally behind it. Even better, what I'm already doing is already totally aligned with the new strategy.
Its a great get out because you get to appear to be enthusiastic, part of the team and forward looking; but you don't actually have to do or change anything.

The catch is, of course, that it's a dangerous fallacy, albeit an extremely seductive and perversely comforting one.

There are three ways in which it could be true:
  1. What you do is not impacted by the strategy, nor does it impact the strategy. That may be true, but it's probably not a good omen for your continued job security!
  2. Previously, your were actually doing something which did not support the old strategy, but which by some extraordinary coincidence actually completely supports the new strategy. I guess such an extreme coincidence is at least theoretically possible, but you've just admitted you hadn't been a supporter of the previous strategy and you've just attributed the fact that you are supporting this one to blind luck. Probably not the impression you thought you were creating.
  3. You don't really understand the new strategy and how it is different from the old one (or perhaps it isn't - but that's a problem for another day). Sooner or later, you will be found out!
No, the only way to deliver strategy is to take a long hard look at everything your currently do, and consider how at least some of it should change. Hard work that may be, but its also what make strategy so exciting.

photo credit: One Way Stock via photopin cc