Posts Tagged ‘executing strategy’

Knowing and Doing – The Difference Affects Results

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

There are advantages to getting older.Knowing the right thing to do and doing it to get results

Knowing the right thing to do.

One is you realize that to be successful, you only have to apply a few simple principles, most of which contain an element of common sense.

Another is that you learn that applying those principles is surprisingly difficult to do.

This last pearl of hard-earned wisdom helps when I read articles and posts about ways to improve business results, that we’ve known about for years.

It prevents me from becoming cynical – even when the authors package them as a new breakthrough that only they were capable of making.

Why is that?

It’s because I know that we – owners, executives, and even consultants – are constantly blind-sided by the day-to-day pressures of running a business. And that makes us lose sight of these fundamentally simple, common sense concepts.

So there’s a real benefit to having them repeated.

Doing the right thing.

Someone much smarter than I am once said “Knowing the right thing to do isn’t difficult. Doing the right thing is what’s difficult.”

I know that’s true.

We work every day with business owners and their teams who often know what to do to be successful (they have a good strategy) but who have difficulty actually doing those things (executing their strategy).

We’re no smarter than they are.

But we have the benefit of being able to focus on linking their strategy to action, helping them get buy-in throughout their organization and then holding them accountable for doing what they said they would.

No distractions for us.

Staying focused on a manageable number of activities which will have a high impact on the future and produce a high return on the resources invested in them, produces good business results.

No surprises there, right?

I could have used a bunch of big words to make the same point.

Or I could have proclaimed this was a new technique that would guarantee results.

But it’s not. It’s wisdom that’s been well proven over time.

Something, however, that bears repeating by a third party that, because of their perspective, can see woods without being blinded by the trees.

It’s worth thinking about as many of us head into annual business planning season.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy A Lesson in Strategy Execution from a Successful Business Owner

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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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A Vision – Is It Worth Investing The Time?

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

1. Yes, and you don’t have to take my word for it.

We are regularly met with a lot of scepticism when we talk to business owners about the need for a vision. But developing one can yield a tremendous return for the time invested.

And you don’t have to believe me.

There’s an article called “Step Into The Future” in the current issue of Inc. magazine written by Ari Weinzweig, a co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

2. Three reasons why a Vision is worth having.

The original business opened in 1982, almost 30 years ago. Zingerman’s Community of Businesses now has annual revenues of around $37 million, 500 employees and 17 managing partners. They are successful by several different standards of measurement.

“It’s safe to say that we wouldn’t be where we are without visioning” according to Weinzweig.  He’s asked regularly for business advice, often by people looking for the silver bullet. While that doesn’t exist Weinzweig says “There is one thing I wish I had understood more clearly from the get-go – the power of visioning”. And that is one very compelling reason for investing the time.

“When we do effective visioning, we’re moving toward the future we want……..” Weinzweig gives an example of a vision they wrote in 2005 for a new venture that had still to get off the ground. Three years later the successful business actually mirrored the vision in key respects.

Having a vision is fundamental to developing and executing an effective strategy. The vision lays out where the company is going; the strategic plan tells everyone how the company will get there. It also becomes easier to choose which opportunities to pursue when they arise. The first question is always “Will it help us achieve our vision?”

“A great vision is inspiring” and gives everyone a reason to come to work. Weinzweig uses a great analogy. He likens a vision to a cathedral, a lasting monument, the tangible evidence of a group’s dreams and hard work. (Fans of Ken Follett’s book “The Pillars of the Earth” should find it particularly easy to relate.)

3. Three ways to make effective use of the time.

Eight Steps to a Vision is the name Weinzweig gives his process. Three of the steps involve drafting and re-drafting with gathering data and assessing trends etc. saved for strategy development.  So it doesn’t require a lot of time to complete. 

His structure is similar to many others, including our own. Most are easier to use than business owners imagine.

Use questions to get things moving. Asking questions about specific aspects of the future make it more tangible. Weinzweig lists 14 questions covering topics you would expect – such as how to measure success – and some topics you wouldn’t – e.g. what the owner does all day.

In our process, we circulate a few questions to key participants in advance. It helps them feel prepared, which makes it easier for them to participate.

Don’t sweat the details. Inevitably, at some point, the discussion will move to the action steps required to achieve the vision. Save these for the planning session. They’re great input but not required during visioning – which is more about passion than detail.

4. Wrapping it up.

I think one reason for scepticism is that business owners confuse visioning – a process – with the vision – an output. 

And a few years ago developing a Vision was the fashionable thing to do, a fad, a silver bullet. As a result framed Vision Statements, many of them meaningless platitudes, littered reception areas.

But Weinzweig and Zingerman’s are evidence that visioning works and that the ROI on the time can be very satisfying.

Strategy Made Practical

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Back in June a friend of mine Jeremy Miller at Sticky Branding commented in his blog that “When you get into strategy and planning you can easily get caught up in the MBA speak.” While I might have phrased it differently (probably because I have an MBA) he has a good point.

All of the business owners we talk to have a strategy. Some may not refer to it using the word “strategy”. But they can all answer 3 questions:
1. Why did you start the company?
2. What do you want to get out of it in 3 years?
3. How are you going to get there?

The answer to the first tells us what their vision and mission statements are. Their response to the second question reveals their goals and the answer to the third is their strategy.

Some colleagues argue that we’re over-simplifying. But we always get a response to those questions, while we’ve proved we may not if we say “Tell me your vision for the company”. If the answers we get are not complete we simply ask follow on or clarifying questions.

By asking the questions in a way that they can be easily answered we avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable if they’re not familiar with “technical” terms. And the responses are generally phrased in practical, pragmatic language.

Returning to a sports analogy for a moment, developing and executing strategy is like playing your favorite sport. We all have some level of skill at it but there are times when we need, or want, to improve those skills.

That’s when we get some help from a professional, e.g. a personal trainer. We usually get the best results when their input is in language we understand and is practical.

Imagine a personal trainer saying something like “The rectus abdominals and obliques can be strengthened using a vehicle with wheels which is moved by pushing pedals with the feet while the internal and external obliques can be flattened and the waist can be reduced.”

When they could just as easily have said “Cycling can strengthen your stomach muscles and trim your waist.”

We believe that to get the best results – steady growth and increasing company value – strategy has to be made practical. That’s one of the reasons we started the business.

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