Strategy and the Force to Stop Something

To some, just the word “Strategy” conjures up visions of big company leaders, sitting at large mahogany tables, surrounded by binders of spreadsheets, and surrounded by graphs and charts tacked up on the wall.  However, as I’ve noted in other posts in the past, my experience has been that companies, departments, and/or business owners who embrace strategy to be its very essence, nothing more than the allocation of scarce resources to a set of objectives, are most successful.

The fact of the matter is that whether or not your “strategy” is conceived and evaluated on your back porch in solitude or in one of those mahogony tabled boardrooms, one of the very hardest things to do is to consciously decide to stop something; to exit a current trajectory, product line, functional level of investment, or solution.  Newton in his First Law of Motion taught us that “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.“  And where strategic investments and tradeoff decisions are concerned, inertia of this kind can be the very thing that causes a company to not achieve its potential.

These are tough decisions, no doubt.  Lacking a crystal ball, one can always hope an initiative will pay off … in the future and give it one more chance, one more snippet of resource to hang on another year.  The justifications for holding on take many forms, but some common real life examples I’ve heard are “…But we have X customers who bought “Offer A” and the deals were profitable, so what does it hurt to continue to fund it even if the rate of growth was not as good as our other businesses and it is a bit outside our primary focus for the future.” Or, “But “Unit Z” was a pet acquisition by the Owner/CEO so we need to invest in it at least another year even it has yet to make it’s projected growth targets or positive cash flow objectives.”  And the justifications or excuses go on.

Reality is, it is this type of leadership behavior that ends up stagnating company growth or even worse, causing the company to miss a major market transition that they otherwise may have had the potential to capture.  Taking a “peanut butter” approach, giving a variety of projects funding is rarely a recipe for success and much less so a recipe that will drive support for substantial growth.

To resist this inertia, start your strategic resource allocation planning by identifying what it will take to adequately invest in ongoing or new initiatives that you believe will create real competitive separation in the marketplace for you. The remainder, then is to be applied against the rest of your business, but only after you focused on the differentiating elements.

Here are a few suggestions to help you evaluate where you will place your bets for the future where a somewhat lackluster or nominal element of your plan is concerned:

1. Can you and your leadership team clearly articulate how the line item (offer, product line, business unit) specifically supports one of your top 3-5 Strategic Imperatives for your business?

2. Be very honest with yourselves, is there anything about the capability or offer that your company is uniquely bringing to a market that actually wants the unique element? (Uniquely less expensive? Uniquely better deliver metrics? Uniquely different package? )

3. What would the impact be if you out-tasked the capability in full or in part?  Is it core or context to what makes you special in the market place?

4. Think in terms of scenario planning alternatives at the extreme – If you de-invested entirely in “Offer A” and doubled up on “Offer C,” what are the best case and worse case scenarios you might encounter?

This series will address each of these suggestions in more depth to give you more ideas on how to practically apply them to your strategic planning process. Please visit again for the remainder of the series and in the meantime, join the conversation.  Can you courageous examples of being a force to stop an object in motion in  your business?

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