Archive for January, 2012

Strategic Music

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

There are many, many different kinds of music – e.g. rock, country and western just like there are many, many different sorts of companies – e.g. software companies, manufacturers etc.

And I’ll bet that everyone can think of at least one favourite tune.

So what has a favourite tune got to do with a business?
Bear with me for a moment and I’ll tell you.

Let’s go back to music first. I’ll bet my favourite tunes won’t be the same as yours. Mine might be classical (or bagpipes) yours might be heavy metal or hard rock. So they won’t sound the same.

But the funny thing is, although they don’t sound the same they will have some things in common.

Such as what you might ask?

Well, with a few exceptions, they probably feature more than one musical instrument. Perhaps there’s someone singing, in fact there may be backup singers as well.

Our favourite tunes will also have a musical score and – where required – lyrics for the vocalists.

The score is a great thing. It not only tells the musician which instrument to play – and when – it also tells them how the instrument must be played. Pretty detailed action plan wouldn’t you say.

Lyrics are also essential for anything other than a pure instrumental. They tell the vocalists – lead and backup – what to sing and how to emphasize the words.

OK so where am I going with this?

Well, I was listening to one of my favourite tunes the other day and a few things occurred to me.

Although each piece of music is different, like companies in different industries, they do have things in common.

The instruments – guitar, drums, key board – are like the different parts of a company – sales, operations, finance. They can play by themselves but when they work together the result can be amazing.

The score is like the strategy – it determines how the band/orchestra will get to the final result. It tells every instrument/musician how to work together while giving them a plan in the form of the notes and chords to be played.

In the better bands, the individual members have input to the score. Sometimes the situation allows them to improvise (you could say the plan is flexible). In some situations improvisation – and even innovation – is required. Jazz springs to mind.

But no individual instrument or musician has a role (departmental plan) that is more important than the score (business strategy). Think of an orchestra for a moment. The musicians in each section – e.g. strings, wind and percussion – see their own part in the piece. But only the conductor has the full score.

And that brings me to my last couple of points.

Every band has a leader – lead guitarist, lead singer, band major – who keeps the focus on the score or lyrics. Rather like the role of the CEO or business owner. He or she doesn’t have to know how to play all of the instruments; the specialists are there for that.

Some bands or orchestras become more popular than others. And, while individual players/musicians may come and go, some bands perform for a long time – years, decades or longer. Innovating and working with new material but maintaining superior quality of output. Why – because the culture, amongst other things, fosters that type of environment.

Finally, the public – you and I – doesn’t pay for the score. We pay for the result – the sound, the music, how it makes us feel.

And that’s an important perspective (particularly for consultants). No one pays for the strategy, they pay for the results – and how the results make them feel.

So, what kind of music are you going to make in 2012?

If you enjoyed this you will also enjoy Design Thinking and Strategy Development.

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10 Strategy Tips From……

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Tony Hsieh, a man who has taken a company from a start-up and sold it for multiple millions of dollars – and who has done it twice.

You really can’t argue with those kinds of results. While doing it once may involve some luck, I think doing it twice meets the important criteria of consistency.

Hsieh spent some time between building LinkExchange and learning how to play poker. He realized that there were many similarities between the game and business and so he made a list of the lessons he learned from poker that can be applied to companies.

Here are the ones that deal with strategy¹ :

  1. Don’t play games you don’t understand, even if you see lots of other people making money from them.
  2. Figure out the game when the stakes aren’t high.
  3. Don’t cheat. Cheaters never win in the long run.
  4. Stick to your principles.
  5. You need to adjust your style of play throughout the night as the dynamics of the game change. Be flexible.
  6. Be patient and think long term.
  7. The players with the most stamina and focus usually win.
  8. Differentiate yourself. Do the opposite of what the rest of the table is doing.
  9. Hope is not a good plan.
  10. Don’t let yourself go “on tilt”. It’s much more cost-effective to take a break, walk around, or leave the game for the night.

I particularly like #5 for 3 reasons.

Firstly, it’s particularly relevant – therefore easy for people to accept – given the current global economic situation.

Secondly, it makes the point that the need for flexibility isn’t new – it’s been around for at least as long as poker (Wikipedia says the game was first reported in 1852) but in reality much longer.

And, finally, flexibility is only one of the 10 points – you also need the other 9, for example long term thinking and differentiating yourself, to be successful.

Hsieh goes on to talk about the second biggest business lesson he learned.

He realized that the game had started before he joined it. So the most important decision he could make was which table to sit at. In business, one of the most important strategic decisions a business owner or CEO has to make is what business to be in.

But Hsieh had a further insight. In poker, while you can always change tables, you can only choose from the tables which already exist. However in business you can define your own market – which is what, for example, Southwest Airlines, Apple’s iStore – and Zappos – did.

My son gave me a copy of the book for Christmas and I’m only mid-way through it. But if you haven’t read it, get a copy. It’s an easy read packed full of wisdom. And, yes, I may have another post or two from it.


¹Delivering Happiness: A Path To Profits, Passion and Purpose, page 65

Top Ten in 2011…….

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

The votes (page views) have been counted, the results can be announced!

Our top 10 blog posts in 2011 were:

  1. The 2 Truths Every Business Owner Has To Face which I wrote in early May was the winner by a significant margin. It talks about why many  owners ignore the second truth.
  2. 4 Things Every Business Owner Must Think About deals with the 6 reasons companies are sold and the 2 factors which are common to all of them.
  3. 10 Tips To Improve Your Public Speaking Body Language written by Mark Bowden of TruthPlane, is the first of our guest posts to make the list.
  4. Why You Need A Consultant With Hands-On Experience is one of several posts we wrote during the year about how to work with consultants.
  5. Bad Strategy – How To Spot It discusses the 4 hallmarks of bad strategy identified by Richard Rumelt in his book “Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters”.
  6. Leading Business Plan Execution is the second guest post to make the list. Brian Brennan a Chartered Accountant and Chair for TEC Canada wrote this piece for us.
  7. Strategy, Culture and Leadership deals with how these 3 things affect the development and the execution of strategy.
  8. Social Media And Strategic Planning Make Interesting Bedfellows Marie Wiese of Marketing Co-Pilot demonstrates how social media can be used to strengthen the strategic planning process.
  9. 3 Surprising Strategies (Or Not) comments on 3 surprising things that emerged from the responses to our survey of 600 people in our database.
  10. 4 Laws Of Effective Implementation is one of the first pieces I ever wrote. If a weak plan strongly executed really is better than a strong plan weakly executed here are 4 “laws” that will make sure you execute effectively.

If you haven’t seen them before, here’s your opportunity!

Don’t Fool Yourself……

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Your strategy for growth is in place; your business planning is finalized; you’re all set for 2012 and it’s only 2 Jan.

Sounds good…….

A question if I may. Did you achieve or exceed your targets for 2011?

Who’s first?

You are and yes you did achieve your 2011 targets. Excellent, congratulations.

So how many years in a row is that?                                                             

Only one, eh? Hmm.

Well yes it is important because it means that in the last 2 years you missed your goals at least as many times as you made them. And if that’s a repeating pattern you’re not getting steady growth are you?

Who’s next? No you didn’t make your targets? OK.

Oh, you almost did? Well, actually “almost” isn’t good enough. What would have happened if Apollo 11 had almost got to the moon? Or if they had almost got the Apollo 13 astronauts back alive? See what I mean?

Almost doing something is not the same as doing it.

So here’s my point. Oh, you were wondering when I was going to get to the point.

OK well here it is now………Just one more, quick question first.

Have you developed a new strategy for this year or did you change your business planning process?

Why do I ask that?

Because if you missed your targets in 2011 – or haven’t made them for more than one year in a row – and you haven’t changed or modified your strategy and business planning process, what makes you think you’ll achieve or exceed your targets in 2012?

Why would using the same tools, in the same way, result in a different outcome?

The point is, you could be sitting there full of confidence for 2012 because you completed your strategic and business planning processes.

But the seeds of more missed targets are already planted and growing – because those processes aren’t delivering results.

Well, yes, you can do something about it now. You don’t want to wait until the end of the first quarter when a chunk of the year has already gone.

Get someone impartial to look at your strategy and business planning process for you.


We can. Give us a call and ask about our Tune Up. It’s quick and inexpensive. We’ll tell you what needs to be adjusted – if anything.

And you can go back to feeling confident about 2012.

Any questions?

If you enjoyed this you will also enjoy So Tell Me, What Is Strategy? and 4 Things Every Business Owner Must Think About.

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