We’ve already talked about what a strategic plan is (and isn’t) in our discussion: “strat plan isn’t ‘budget +10%.’” Hopefully now that you’ve got a direction mapped out and a list of initiatives you’re going to pursue, you’re ready for a little tactical strategic advice (yes that phrase is supposed to sound oxymoronic but it’s actually deliberate and accurate).
Repeat after me: “No.”
Try it again. This time with conviction: “NO.”
Strategy is inherently about saying “no.” It’s about the choices we make and the choices we don’t. I’ve seen plenty of strategies completely derailed due to an inability to say “no” to that incremental initiative that’s kind of “on strategy” but not really. The more effective you are at saying “no” to non-core work and singularly focusing your team on the end vision you’ve laid out, the higher the likelihood of you achieving your strategic goals. Not saying “no,” on the other hand, leads to dilution of your efforts and strategy by incrementalism (which is rarely effective).
Let’s walk this logical strategic dog, shall we? Take the following points as true:
The last point is where things get hairy.Our resources are always strapped. Adding work to their plate beyond normal “surges” in workload is self-defeating in the long run because you’ll run your team into the ground. That’s why a focused set of initiatives is critical. Additionally, in increasingly distributed work networks, having a focused set of initiatives helps ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction thereby increasing your odds of success.
Here’s how things can go horribly awry. Say you have a strategy of offering a premier grocery retailing experience (sort of like Whole Foods). The four major initiatives you’re going to pursue are:
Seems like a reasonable list of areas to pursue. Combine all of them successfully and cost effectively and there’s a high likelihood of achieving your strategy (presuming your market segmentation is right to begin with and there’s a market for what you’re selling).
This is where saying “no” comes into play. Billy Jack the technology vendor just pitched you a cool new scanning device for doing inventory. Fletus McGillicuddy in purchasing has some great supply chain ideas after returning from a lean manufacturing training. Doris Delaney wants to launch a cool new website for delivering coupons to customers. All of these folks have done business cases showing these initiatives are NPV-positive. What do you do?
“NO.” Not a single one of these is on the core path you’ve laid out above. Their link to any of your major strategic initiatives is specious at best. They all sound great but they will be dilutive to your core efforts. Your choices are:
I’m choosing “no.” I can’t emphasize enough the need to stay focused and ignore distractions. Good strategic execution is about making smart choices and decisions. Not saying “no” means you’re either easily distracted, indecisive, or not willing to make the difficult calls. Give “no” a try sometime because by doing so you’re implicitly saying “yes” to the initiatives you’ve already chosen.
- Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC