Posts Tagged ‘action plan’

ProfitPATH’s Top Ten Blogs – First Quarter 2015

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Lessons about successful business growth1.  3 Lessons About Successful Business Growth

Two books, published 19 years apart, yet saying similar things about a key aspect of successful business growth:
‘Built To Last’ was published in 1994. In it, Jim Collins analyzed 18 companies that he called visionary because they were the best in their industries – and had been that way for decades. Collins argued that the core values and enduring purpose of all 18 could be separated from their operating practices and business strategies. And that, while the former never changed, the latter changed constantly in response to a changing world.
In her book ‘The End Of Competitive Advantage’, published in 2013, Rita Gunther McGrath studied the performance of large, publicly-traded companies from 2000-2009. She found that only 10 of them grew their net income by at least 5% every year. All 10 had found ways to combine tremendous internal stability with tremendous external flexibility. McGrath argues that to win in volatile and uncertain times, companies must learn to exploit short-lived opportunities quickly and decisively. more

time for a change in the direction you are heading, focus on center of compass...2.  3 Times When You May Need To Change Your Strategy

Changes to a well thought-out, well-crafted strategy shouldn’t be driven simply because it’s been in place 1, 3 or 5 years. A strategy shouldn’t necessarily be changed even if it isn’t producing results. In this situation I always look at how well (or badly) the strategy is being executed before I look at the strategy itself. So when should a company review its strategy? And what makes that review and any subsequent adaptation, revision or re-creation necessary? Here are three occasions. more

10 Commandments of Business Development3.  10 Commandments of Business Development

I’m not enjoying the after-effects of the 2007/2008 financial crisis. And I’m certainly not a fan of the banks, investment and other, which I believe were a significant contributor to the mess. But, while my wife may disagree, I like to think I keep an open mind. So when I saw an article talking about how Goldman Sachs grew from mid-tier firm to global player in a few decades I had to peek. John Whitehead, a co-head of the firm in 1970, wrote the following 10 commandments that guided their business development efforts. I love them. They’re full of common sense and they’re very practical. Written in 1970, these 10 commandments add to my belief that the basic, common sense principles of business never change. Here are 4 things that business owners today can take from them: more

4.  Adaptive Strategy – A Way To Profits In The New Normal?

Adaptive Strategy is an alternative developed by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)¹. Here’s how I think it applies to owner managed businesses. Adaptive strategy is built on the 3 R’s required in a changing environment². Can adaptive strategy be applied in owner managed businesses? more

5.  6 Ways A Business Owner Can Influence Culture

I wrote last week about the relationship between Strategy, Culture and Leadership. As a result we’ve had some questions about how a business owner can influence the culture in his/her company. Here, in no particular priority, are 6 ways that it can be done. more

6.  The Difference Between A Strategy And A Plan

I want to talk briefly about what I think is one of the worst mistakes – confusing strategy and planning. Roger Martin wrote a post for the HBR last month in which he dealt with this very topic. I frequently hear business owners talk about the need to do “strategic planning” in order to create a “strategic plan”. Some talk – every year – about holding a “strategic planning meeting”. more

7.  6 Challenges Fast Growing Companies Face

I’ve mentioned Inc. magazine www.inc.com several times before. It’s a great resource. There’s a well-researched article in the current issue about 6 challenges fast growing companies face. They’re all about execution – and if the owner doesn’t deal with them well any one of them can be fatal. more

8.  6 Tips For Growing Your Business in 2015 – How to Use Them

I was asked a good question last week. “Loved your last blog post, Jim – but how do companies like mine do those things?” So here are some ways any business owner can implement the 6 tips in his/her company. more

9.  6 Tips For Growing Your Business in 2015

January is the month for New Year’s resolutions, freezing cold and, for many, a new fiscal year. Everyone wants to ‘do better’ in 2015 than in 2014 and, for business owners, ‘doing better’ is shorthand for growing. I don’t know how often, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been asked something like “What are your top 6 tips for growing successfully”. The answer depends on a number of things. Here’s the rub. All 6 are much easier to talk about than do. But if you start on them now you can make some progress this year. more

10. 3 Reasons Why Strategy Isn’t Dead In The Water

I hate sweeping generalizations. Strategy is dead is one that I particularly dislike. To say that, it seems to me, is to say that it’s a complete waste of time for every company, regardless of size or industry, to have a strategy.
An article appeared in the Globe and Mail late last year, headline “Why Strategy is Dead In The Water.” It was based on an earlier article in Forbes magazine, headline “Is Strategy Dead? 7 Reasons The Answer May Be Yes.” We’d gone from strategy might be dead to signing its death certificate – in the space of two headlines. more

 

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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Business Growth – Hard Truths and The Way Ahead

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Every company runs out of momentum sooner or later.Hard truths and the way ahead - the importance of strategic planning

When it happens, it’s really frustrating and confusing for business owners who have overseen many years of steady growth. Discovering that the things that re-started growth in the past no longer work is hard to understand.

So is accepting that it’s not necessarily because of something they have not done.

When they come to terms with all of that, a bigger, harder step is waiting – realizing that they:

  • Have to do something they may never have done before – strategic planning – and they
  • May need help doing it.

Notice I say strategic planning, which is a process, not writing a strategic plan, which is a document that will lie unused from the day it’s completed.

Done well, strategic planning will help a business owner see the smartest way forward, while providing flexibility to adapt as more information becomes available.

Two things make strategic planning more important today than before.

  • The volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) that exists today, and
  • Accelerating technological changes, which have opened up opportunities to businesses of all sizes, in all industry sectors.

An article in Inc. magazine last year confirms the points I’ve made and reinforces 2 of the 4 things that I’ve said growing companies have to do to turn strategic planning into results.

Develop a Clear Growth Path

A good, old-fashioned SWOT analysis provides the foundation for a growth path.

It’s not something that gets people leaping around with excitement. But, done well, it helps a company get results by using its strengths to figure out the best opportunities to take.

That drives out what has to be done to close the gap between where the business is now and where the owner wants it to be in 3 years’ time.

Link it to Action

A number of things will have to be done to close the gap. They have to be prioritized so that those providing the greatest leverage for long-term success are completed first.

The top priorities are broken into very specific, measurable action/project plans and someone is made accountable for completing each one.

The action/project plans drive the goals for each of the 3 fiscal years. They are reviewed throughout each year and before the start of subsequent years – keeping flexibility in the strategic planning process.

Next time

I’ll give you some tips on how to run strategic planning off-sites.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Playing It Safe – The Enemy Of Business Growth

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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

ProfitPATH’s Top Ten Blogs – First Half 2014

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

 

1.   6 Challenges Fast Growing Companies Face

I’ve mentioned Inc. magazine www.inc.com several times before. It’s a great resource. There’s a well-researched article in the current issue about 6 challenges fast growing companies face. They’re all about execution – and if the owner doesn’t deal with them well any one of them can be fatal. more

 

 

Strategy is not planning and the importance of knowing the difference2.   The Difference Between A Strategy And A Plan

I want to talk briefly about what I think is one of the worst mistakes – confusing strategy and planning. Roger Martin wrote a post for the HBR last month in which he dealt with this very topic. I frequently hear business owners talk about the need to do “strategic planning” in order to create a “strategic plan”. Some talk – every year – about holding a “strategic planning meeting”. more

 

3time for a change in the direction you are heading, focus on center of compass....   3 Times When You May Need To Change Your Strategy

Changes to a well thought-out, well-crafted strategy shouldn’t be driven simply because it’s been in place 1, 3 or 5 years. A strategy shouldn’t necessarily be changed even if it isn’t producing results. In this situation I always look at how well (or badly) the strategy is being executed before I look at the strategy itself. So when should a company review its strategy? And what makes that review and any subsequent adaptation, revision or recreation necessary? Here are three occasions. more

4.   Adaptive Strategy – A Way To Profits In The New Normal?

Adaptive Strategy is an alternative developed by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)1. Here’s how I think it applies to owner managed businesses. Adaptive strategy is built on the 3 R’s required in a changing environment2. Can adaptive strategy be applied in owner managed businesses? more

5.   6 Ways A Business Owner Can Influence Culture

I wrote last week about the relationship between Strategy, Culture and Leadership. As a result we’ve had some questions about how a business owner can influence the culture in his/her company. Here, in no particular priority, are 6 ways that it can be done. more

6.   6 Things We Can All Learn From Family-Owned Businesses

The 6 things I’m going to talk about come from a study of 149 large, publicly-traded, family-controlled businesses. However, stay with me because we’ve seen the same characteristics in the successful family-owned businesses we’ve dealt with – and none of them are publicly traded. Another thing – the study looked at 1997 – 2009, covering some good and some very tough times. Guess what? The family-controlled businesses, on average, turned in better long-term financial performance than non-family businesses – in multiple countries. So what are the 6 things we can learn? more

7.   6 Tips For Finding The Right Buyer

Last week I was one of three speakers at the Toronto Star’s Small Business Club event, “Exit and Succession Planning”. My talk included 6 things a business owner can do to ensure she/he finds the right buyer or successor. more

8.   3 Ways Human Nature Sabotages Strategy

Ask 10 people how long it will take them to complete a task and I’d guess 7 or 8 of them will underestimate the time required. That proportion might increase if the 10 are all type A personalities – i.e. business owners or entrepreneurs. We see this when we take teams through our strategy and business planning processes. For example, at a specific point, we prioritize the things they need to do to close the gap between their company’s current state and where they want it in 3 years’ time. Typically the teams want to tackle more items than is humanly possible given their resources. There’s no ideal number of items – the complexity of each item is only 1 of the variables – but we’ve seen time and again that completing a few key tasks produces better results than taking on too many. more

9.   5 Traits Effective Business Owners Share

I believe the single biggest thing that separates companies that grow from those that don’t is the owner’s awareness of the need for change and their willingness to do so. So, I was interested in a recent post about traits that effective entrepreneurs share. Sure enough, it contained a quote saying that if owners commit to learning more about themselves and becoming the best that they can be, they’ll find that challenges are really opportunities. But what other traits, according to the post, do effective entrepreneurs have? more

10.  Strategic Planning – 3 Things That Are Wrong With It

We all know that picking a strategy means making choices. But that means making guesses about that great unknown, the future. What happens then if we make the wrong choice? Could we destroy a company? That’s why, according to Roger Martin¹, we turn choosing a strategy into a problem that can be solved using tools we are comfortable with. And we call that strategic planning. But, Martin says, companies make 3 mistakes when they confuse strategy and strategic planning. more

 

 

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

2 Risks To Business Growth – And How To Avoid Them

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

We’ve worked with well over 100 companies since we started ProfitPATH.2 of the 4 risks that affect business growth and how to avoid them

A couple of posts ago, I commented that we did some, or all, of the same 4 things for the companies that achieved the results they wanted.

Was their success solely attributable to what we did for them? I can’t prove that with certainty.

But I can say this,

  • Ignore these 4 things and you will not get the results you want and your company will not achieve its potential. (That’s why we call them the 4 Risks.)
  • On the other hand, if a company deals with all 4 regularly, it will improve its results.

Here are the first 2 and some tips on how to deal with them.

1.  Have A Clear Growth Path

Having a clear growth path means having a picture of what you want your company to look like in 3 years’ time.

The best pictures are rich in detail and sharp in focus. In this case:

  • Detail comes from the depth of analysis that goes into building the picture.
  • Focus is a result of the choices that are made about the initiatives required to get there.

Using other language, this is your Vision, your Mission and your Strategy.

Bear in mind that we update photos of things we love – children, pets – as they grow and change. The same applies to a company.

2.  Link It To Action

The 3-year picture is what you desire. Turning it into reality takes action which yields results.

The key is to break what has to be achieved in 3 years into 3 sets of annual goals. Figuring out what has to be done in 12-month bites provides the flexibility to adapt as you learn more than you knew when you started out.

However, this requires a process and the discipline to use it every fiscal year.

  • Where must we be in 12 months? Where are we now? What’s the gap? How do we close it?
  • Prioritizing the list of “to do’s”; allocating resources to the high leverage items; and putting action plans in place to complete them.

This process drives the annual financial budgets – not the other way around.

I’ll touch on the other 2 Risks next time. For now, ask yourself this: “Where do you want your business to be in 3 years’ time?”  And, “What do you think you have to do to get there?”

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy A Vision – Is It Worth Investing The Time?

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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

3 Questions Linking Strategy and Execution

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

My friends think it’s a little sad, but I get excited when I find a book about business strategy that I haven’t read.The link between strategy and execution

I saw an article about one the other day, and was impressed by the author’s answers to 3 questions about the link between strategy and execution.

Judging by the article, the book focuses on larger corporations. But the lessons apply, I think, equally to owner-managed businesses.

Question 1:  Why do companies spend more energy on strategy development than execution?

Strategic planning off-sites usually take a few weeks to prepare and only last a few days.

But executing a strategy takes months or years during which time things go wrong – e.g. the economy changes, competitors react and the managers who developed the strategy leave the company.

Also there are more people involved in execution than in development. Some have different attitudes and levels of commitment to the strategy than the people who developed it. They may not really understand how what they do fits into the strategy or they become distracted by day-to-day problems.

So it’s easy to give up when things get in the way of execution.

Question 2:  What are the biggest mistakes, or most common pitfalls, when it comes to turning strategy into results?

A big one is failing to realize that there’s no silver bullet. Turning a strategy into results takes time.

Another classic is not putting a detailed implementation plan in place. Without one there can be no focus on key action plans and the responsibility and accountability for completing them. Nor will there be a process to manage the relationships and reactions between the constantly changing variables – e.g. resources, priorities, departmental rivalries – that are in play.

A third is that, in some bigger companies, management think that having created this beautiful strategy, their work is done. “Other people” have to buckle down and turn it into action.

Question 3:  What can you do to improve the odds of executing successfully?

Here’s where the saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast” comes into play.

Because the best way to execute successfully is to have a company that is “results oriented”. In those companies everything – the values, processes, individual rewards and, most of all, the behavior of the owner and management team – supports the achievement of the company’s goals.

Building this kind of culture isn’t easy and it can’t be done quickly.

It takes time build a workforce in which employees’ personal values match those of the company. And it takes time for employees to feel confident that they won’t be ridiculed if they suggest something new, or penalized if they take a risk and it goes wrong.

By the way, the book I found is called “Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change” and the author is Lawrence Hrebiniak. You can read more about it here.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy So Tell Me, What Is Strategy?

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Development and Execution – The 2 Halves of Strategy

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Assumptions are extremely frustrating things.Mistakenly assuming everyone understands the definitions of strategy development and strategy execution results in extreme frustration.

We deal with them on a regular basis. We frequently advise business owners how to avoid the dangers related to making assumptions.

And yet I still fall into the trap of making bad ones myself. Let me give you an example.

Sara and I had a working lunch one day last week. We were discussing an aspect of ProfitPATH’s business plan for our next fiscal year (yes, we do take our own advice) which begins on July 1, 2013.

I was talking about our strategy development and strategy execution workshops when something Sara said stopped me short. I had assumed we had been operating on the same understanding about the workshops but, clearly, we hadn’t.

Why is this important?

Because now I wonder if I’ve been making the similar assumptions with other people.

Strategy development is all about developing an effective way for a business owner to achieve his or her longer-term (let’s say 5 years) goals.

There are a number of well-established ways to develop a strategy. The academics, and large consulting companies like Monitor and McKinsey, call them “models”.

They usually involve things like a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), identifying strategic alternatives and selecting one. They may include identifying the company’s Values, and they should include developing Vision (a picture of the company in 5 years’ time) and Mission (how to get there) statements.

Strategy development models or workshops should also include what I call a 2-way communication plan. They get input from employees, customers, suppliers and industry associations. The output is rolled out to everyone in the company so that they can understand the part they have to play in it.

Strategy execution is about turning the strategy into results or reality. With the exception of the Balanced Scorecard, which has its merits but which I don’t think is ideal, there are no well-established ways or models for executing strategy.

My view is that the annual planning cycle is at the core of strategy execution. It translates the strategy into a series of prioritized action plans which are specific, measurable and time-related. Each action plan has a Champion who is accountable for its successful completion. These action plans are the output from the annual kick-off meeting and form the agenda for quarterly review meetings.

The action plans underpin, even form the basis for, the annual sales, expense and profit forecasts. They identify manpower requirements, and investments in other resources such as plant and equipment, offices and facilities and IT infrastructure. And they can be linked to bonuses and other rewards.

We’ve built our development and execution workshops around those ‘definitions’. Thought I’d just make sure there were no assumptions out there to the contrary.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy I’m Not Alone………

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Entrepreneurs Lack Empathy – Really?

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

A new study reveals entrepreneurs, business owners lack empathy and analytical problem-solving skills.4 key skills entrepreneurs lack including empathy

Is this just telling us what we already know?

Most importantly, from my selfish point of view, how does this affect the way in which they approach strategy?

Apparently, there are 2 reasons why entrepreneurs are below the norm when it comes to analytical problem-solving. They’re motivated by, for example, potential future gains, money and new products or ideas. And they have a sense of urgency when it comes to making decisions.

So they don’t “have time” to collect and analyze data and, because people who tell them their ideas won’t work use numbers to do so, they think numbers just get in the way.

That easily translates into impatience with the strategy development process. Which may be OK in those cases where the business owner’s knowledge of an industry, or a gap in a market, gives them an almost intuitive sense of what to do to win.

However it could explain why some businesses have early successes and then begin to fail. There comes a point where figuring out what the industry, the market, the competitors are doing and the correct sales/marketing and operations/delivery response gets too complex to be done “on the fly”.

And I didn’t even touch on hiring the right skills, acquiring the necessary resources and building a healthy culture, etc. – or how to finance those activities.

Two other skills entrepreneurs lack are self-management and planning and organizing. Reading the post describing the research, the difference between the two blurred a little for me.

A couple of phrases did strike a chord though.

For example, “entrepreneurs typically have many projects underway at one time…. need assistance managing everyday tasks and should… delegate them to someone who has mastered this skill.” The Action Plans, which are developed at annual business planning sessions, play a key part in the successful execution of a strategy.

Making sure they’re completed requires consistent, regular follow up with the Champion. It also requires empathy, which is required to be understanding and supportive when things go wrong and deadlines slip. This helps get the Action Plans back on track.

Will knowing the extent to which entrepreneurs and business owners lack these 4 skills make it easier for those affected to accept solutions?

Based on my 16 years of experience working with business owners and entrepreneurs I’d have to give the typical consultants’ answer – yes and no.

Some individuals – the ones who realize they have to change in order for their companies to grow – get it. And some don’t.

But that’s human nature.

You can find the full blog post with the results of the study here.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Where Do The People Fit?

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The Difference Between A Strategy And A Plan

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Hang on a second, don’t tune out yet!

I’m not going to write a scholarly piece which will bore you to death.

I want to talk briefly about what I think is one of the worst mistakes – confusing strategy and planning. Roger Martin wrote a post for the HBR last month in which he dealt with this very topic.

I frequently hear business owners talk about the need to do “strategic planning” in order to create a “strategic plan”. Some talk – every year – about holding a “strategic planning meeting”.

But if you really are reinventing your strategy every year, isn’t that a bit of an indictment of both the strategy and the way it was developed?

Coming back to the meeting, the expectation is that the output from it will be a document, a plan. And that will contain a long list of initiatives (often referred to as strategies) with time frames for their completion.

Martin wonders how (and if) this “strategic plan” differs from a budget. I think that’s a great question. But I have a different one.

Isn’t this so called strategic planning meeting really an annual (business) planning meeting? That doesn’t make it any less important – because it still plays a key role in the execution of the company’s strategy.

And if that’s the case, shouldn’t we stop calling the output a “strategic” plan. And start calling it what it really is – the initiatives, which if completed in the next 12 months, will propel the company toward the achievement of its strategy.

Each initiative is accompanied by the Action Plans required to complete it. Each action plan has a champion who is accountable for it’s completion. The action plans have resources allocated to them. And they support, or even drive, the sales and margin forecast and expense budget.

Now let’s go back and talk about the company’s strategy for a moment.

Roger Martin puts it really well –

• “…we need to break free of this obsession with planning. Strategy is not planning…”

and then

• “…strategy is a singular thing; there is one strategy for a given business — not a set of strategies. It is one integrated set of choices….”

Choices about, for example, where and how a company will compete.

The strategy sets the context for the annual planning meeting. It should make it easy for the owner and her/his management team to decide which initiatives are relevant. (Assuming, of course, that they have already developed an effective strategy.)

I think the first step toward developing and executing business strategies that actually yield results is to stop misusing words.

If we call things by their real names we’ll stand a far better chance of understanding what they really are – or vice versa.

You can read Roger Martin blog post in full here.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Strategy – Don’t Think It, Experience It

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Do You Have a Job or a Business?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

I don’t know who first asked that question, or when.Business owner's strategy determines job or business

I do know that there are lots of business owners who either have never heard it or who have heard it but choose not to think about it.

How do I know? Because we meet them and, if you think about it, so do you. In fact you may even be one.

How do you recognize them? They fit one of 2 groups.

The first is the “solopreneur”. A solopreneur is someone who starts a business but never grows it beyond the point of having only 1 employee – themselves. (If I seem a little nervous it’s because, a few years ago, I came uncomfortably close to being one.)

Some people do it deliberately. They’ve often had successful careers in large corporations with large teams reporting to them. They reach a point where they’ve had enough of managing people and playing politics and want to get back to just doing the work they love.

Others do it by omission. They want the rewards of building a larger company but either won’t take the financial risks or they share some of the characteristics of people I’ll talk about next.

The second group is people who can’t get out of their own way. Their companies have grown, but nothing can happen in the business without them. For example, only they;

• Know the key contacts in every customer and supplier.
• Can fix things if a customer is unhappy.
• Understand how products are produced/services delivered.
• Can conduct interviews “properly” and offer jobs to new hires.

As a result they work as close to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as is humanly possible – for years.

And, despite what they tell you, they are not happy.

The irony is that, even when they collapse because of exhaustion, no one will buy their company because without them it doesn’t exist.

Andy Bailey, who is a reformed member of the second group, recently wrote an article about it. He describes the 4 steps he believes make the difference between building a business and having a job.

1. Define the company’s purpose (tip – begin with why the business was started) and hire people who buy into it. That will build a strong culture.
2. Replace the people with all the knowledge in their heads with systems and processes. This is what Michael Gerber talks about in “The E Myth”.
3. Create demand instead of always chasing sales. Consistently deliver quality products/services on time and build a reputation for the brand.
4. Create a strategic plan which produces results via prioritized action plans involving everyone.

These 4 steps are a neat précis of the advice in books like “Built To Sell” by John Warrilow. And they separate the owner from the company and a job from a business.

Why is that important? Because you can’t sell a job when you’re finished with it. But you can sell a company.

So which do you have – a job or a business?

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 8 Things That Hinder Growth.

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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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