Strategy, Motherhood, The Dog and Its Tail

Do you remember that old expression “The tail’s wagging the dog”?The tail's wagging the dog or, the process is more important than the result

It was used to describe situations in which, for example, a process for doing something takes on more importance than the result it produces.

Why did I think of that now?

Simply, for many companies, this is the time of year in which they begin their strategic or business planning.

This process is often viewed as unproductive, frustrating, even pointless or a waste of time. So it may not be welcomed with enthusiasm.

Why is that?

After 13 years of working with business owners and their teams, I have a few ideas:

1.  Strategy development is a difficult, creative, iterative activity. But in many organizations the ‘planning’ process has to be completed in a predetermined period of time, in the same month or quarter, every year. That’s the tail wagging the dog.

2.  We use terms like strategic planning, business planning, and even budgeting, interchangeably as if they all refer to the same thing. They don’t.

  • Strategy development involves making well thought out choices about the future.
  • Business planning is about the activities that have to be completed in the next 12 months to execute the strategy.
  • Budgeting is estimating the financial outcomes of the activities in the annual business plan.

3.  If we’re not clear about what we’re setting out to do, everyone will expect a different outcome and no one will end up getting the result they wanted.

4.  Worse, the results we do get may not be useful. By trying to do more than one thing at a time, we end up doing none of them well. The result is a breathtaking series of ‘motherhood’ statements that are neither a strategy nor focused action plans.

5.  We begin the process with a budget, the financial targets the owner wants to achieve, and make the ‘strategy’ fit those. That, to use another metaphor, is putting the cart before the horse.

6.  Even if the results are useful, we don’t follow up. We are so busy dealing with day-to-day challenges there is simply no time. In reality, we lack discipline – not time.

Is it surprising that many business owners, executives, managers and employees are cynical about ‘planning’?

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Strategy and Planning – How Business Owners Think

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Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

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Tags: action plans, budgeting, business owners, business planning, Jim Stewart, Planning, Process, ProfitPATH, results, strategy, Strategy Development, Strategy Execution

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