Posts Tagged ‘execute’

Strategies versus Tactics: Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Our guest this week is Marcus Miller, a Partner with Sticky Branding Inc., a business development consultancy specialized in firms selling professional services such as accounting, legal and wealth management. They help their clients sell more, faster by developing marketing and business development strategies for the post-Google era.

The “Trojan Horse” is a tale of how the Greeks took the city of Troy, which had been under siege for ten years. The Greeks tried and tried for a decade to take the city, but could not break through the walls. But the Trojan horse changed their fate.

Here are the quick facts. The Greeks constructed the huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside it. The remaining Greek army made a great display of breaking down their camps, and pretending to sail away. They left the horse at the gates of the city of Troy as a “gift”. In celebration the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. They believed they had won the war by standing their ground, defending their walls and holding the Greeks at bay for ten years. However that night the Greek contingent hidden inside the horse crept out of the structure and opened the city’s gates. The rest of the Greek army – the ones who pretended to sail away – were waiting, and the city of Troy was destroyed.

The Greeks’ strategy is one of deception. They deployed the wooden horse as a gift, and appeared to sail away in defeat. The strategy worked exceedingly well. Their goal was to open the city’s gates, and attack their unsuspecting foe. The wooden horse was an important part of the strategy, but it was simply a tactic.

The strategy is the most important aspect to winning a war. Marching into battle without a well thought out strategy does not deliver success. The Greeks demonstrated that for ten years. The Trojans were able to sustain the Greeks’ attacks, because their strategies were based on their conventional tactics of war. The Trojans understood the Greek history, and built defenses that nullified the traditional attacks. The Trojan Horse was a change of strategy.

Growing a business fits very well into the metaphor of waging war. When you focus on tactics you can get mired in a stalemate, and never achieve your goals.

The key to growth is strategy. You first have to come up with a clear strategy, and then execute it with effective tactics. The problem is tactics are a lot easier to grasp than strategy. Tactics are tangible like a wooden horse. In modern terms we talk about hiring sales people, implementing software systems, creating new websites and executing campaigns. And companies love to buy tactics. They see how tactic works, and can get moving on it right away.

Some companies even believe strategy is baked into the tactics. For example they may employ a marketing agency of some ilk (design, advertising, web, digital, whatever), and expect the tactical service they are buying to deliver a growth strategy. It doesn’t work that way. It’s like they’re assuming marching drills and frontal assaults will win the war without considering the big picture and how the enemy will counter. Adopting others’ winning tactics is not a clear strategy to succeeding.

Do you have a well thought out business strategy for winning your battles, or do you adopt tactics first and try to make the strategy fit? Trojan horses are not strategies, they’re tactics. They only turn into strategy when combined with other tactics to accomplish a desired outcome.

You can reach Marcus at 416.479.4403, ext. 21 or Marcus.Miller@StickyBranding.com.

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“You Can Achieve Any Result You Want To……”

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

If you’ve read any of my earlier blog posts you’ll know that I play golf. I realize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the game so you will find absolutely no discussion of the technicalities of golf in the following paragraphs.

In fact, if you want, you can substitute any game you personally prefer and still get the benefit of the points I’m going to make.

At the beginning of the summer I decided that my golf really had to improve. As a result, I took some lessons from someone with the experience to help me improve my swing. He turned out to be a terrific teacher who not only helped me improve my practical skills but also gave me confidence in my ability to become a “decent” golfer.

At one point, when we were discussing my goals, he said to me “You can achieve any score you decide to.” These were words of great encouragement for me. When I thought about it later I realized that he was pointing out two things:
• I alone had control over how much of my potential I realized.
• My attitude would play a large part in determining how good I actually became.
Adrian also told me that I had to practice hard, 2 or 3 times every week.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

After taking stock of my personal strengths and weaknesses as a golfer, he gave me the opportunity to develop a better swing by avoiding the threats of a bad grip, bad posture etc. (OK so I lied a little bit about golf technicalities.) This was the golfing equivalent of a business owner developing a strategy for growing her/his company.

But actually making an improvement in my game would depend on how well I executed that strategy – the consistency of each swing at the ball (a process); how often I practiced (implemented the action plan) and how I adapted to what happened on the course each time I played (regular reviews using feedback from actual results). Also similar to the things a business owner has to do when he/she is growing a business!

I don’t want to draw this metaphor out for too long so let me tell you what happened. For a number of weeks I practiced regularly, improved my swing and learned my lessons when things didn’t work out during a game. My scores steadily got better.

Then, just as happens so often in business, things began to get in the way. I had to go to the UK, then we had house guests arrive. Work was being crammed into early morning and late night sessions.

I stopped practicing regularly (lost focus on my action plan) because I “had” to deal with these other things. My performance on the course (that great golf marketplace) and my scores began to slide again. I did wake up before I’d fallen too far behind (that razor sharp analytical mind at work). And I have improved, but not to the extent that I might have done, could have done, should have done.

I fell into the classic trap that we face as business owners – the day-to-day, tactical stuff took more of my attention than the strategic stuff.

So, the lesson I’ve learned this summer is that I have the potential to achieve a “decent” score in golf. I was certainly able to develop a better strategy (swing) than I’ve ever had before. But my attitude to execution meant I didn’t get to reap the full benefit of my strategy.

But I am now keeping a keen eye on the execution of my business plan (see Physician Heal Thyself)!

4 Laws of Effective Implementation

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

When we want something – for example more revenue, bigger profits, a new home, or a dream vacation we’re told that we have to do 3 things. They are set a goal; make a plan to reach the goal and implement the plan. But which is the most important – the goal, the plan or the execution?

There’s no doubt in my mind that the third thing – implementation or execution – is the most important of the 3. Many years ago someone told me that “A weak plan strongly executed is better than a strong plan weakly executed”. Just last week someone told me about a promotional piece that had been written for them some time ago. They didn’t think it was great but, having spent time and money on it, they decided to use it and much to their surprise it worked. Not perfectly, but sales did go up and they did attract new customers.

So, how do we make sure we tackle this key activity – implementation – effectively? Here are 4 aspects of execution that are so important that they could be laws. Follow them and dramatically increase the odds of achieving your goals.

Law # 1. The first law of implementation is that 80% of something is better than 100% of nothing. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity, try to develop the perfect product, try to find a “breakthrough” strategy or write the perfect plan. You must take what you have and make a start – now, today. Because if you don’t then there will also be some reason not to start tomorrow and before you know it the month or the quarter or the year have gone – and you’ll have accomplished nothing.

Law # 2. Persist. There’s an old adage about 10 salesmen who hear about the same deal. In the early stages, it’s hard to get an appointment, the prospect is demanding but slow to return calls, and 4 of the salespeople become so frustrated they just give up. Four more drop out when the prospect begins to bring up objections and does price/benefit comparisons and asks for references. The moral is that the 2 salesmen who stay at it improve their odds of getting the deal from 1 in 10 to 1 in 2 – simply by persisting.

Law # 3. Be prepared to adapt. There has never been a plan developed that worked precisely as conceived and exactly on time. All plans are based on assumptions which, even if they are logical and include the most detailed information available at the time, are just that – assumptions. Effective owners and managers review their plans regularly, for example quarterly, and compare what actually happened to their assumptions. Then they adapt their strategy and action plans for the rest of the year.

Law # 4 is all about commitment. Once you’ve decided to implement a plan then support it by allocating sufficient resources to it. No half-hearted measures – buy high quality raw materials, train everyone thoroughly, make the right equipment available and put enough people on the job. Because anything less than total commitment will jeopardize the goal.

The odds are that none of the 4 laws are a revelation. But in the face of day to day pressures we all lose sight of lessons that we’ve learned, things that are common sense. Remember these 4 laws and you’ll achieve more.

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