Over the last 15 years or so I’ve been fortunate to be involved with the facilitation, creation and execution of numerous business improvement strategies. Or so I thought, about 6 years ago I had the opportunity to reflect on what I thought I was doing and realised the majority of what I had been doing was in fact planning and not strategic input. So what’s the difference?

A Plan is basically a road map with a start point, a middle and an end point where a series of actions and tactics are played out. A strategy by contrast is the determination of an end state and decisions regarding focus.

Because of the type of work I do involving helping organisations as an adviser on strategy, systems and tactics I have had the opportunity to see first hand how Managers and Leaders act out how they see the world they inhabit. In most cases I can honestly say the language is about ‘winning’ ‘beating the competition’ ‘how much better they are than everyone else’... and so on. You’d be forgiven for thinking they had an insight into where the end point was and what it looked like.

What I came to realise is that most Managers and Leaders are convinced they are in a battle and that somehow they can win. And this is not true!

The world of business or organisational activity is a never ending situation. There are no winners or losers but there is better or worse. As time passes and plans are enacted and tactics applied an organisation will either perform better than it once did or worse then it once did when viewed through the lens of a predetermined metric such as; in comparison to a particular company in the same sector or EBIT or cash ratio… To think otherwise is a self-deception as to the reality of the situation.

5 Rules to Remaining Relevant

There are ways in which an organisation can if it chooses to embrace the truth openly can go about its day-to-day business and stack the odds in their favour so that they can look at the predetermined metric and see improvement;

  1. Understand the Purpose of the Organisation – Often organisations will have Mission and Vision Statements and these will speak of being the best or better than. This is missing the point completely. For the organisation to flourish it must first understand its purpose, what is the organisation there to do, what purpose does the organisation exist for. The Purpose of the Organisation must be bigger than the people within the organisation and it must be the guiding principle to everything the organisation does. The organisation is not there to beat the competition.
  2. The Management must build trust in their teams, they must build a work environment where their people can develop into the best version of themselves. The people must feel safe in being their-selves and managers must provide support so they can be.
  3. Recognise that your organisation will not be the best at every aspect of the business its in all of the time. Seek out a competitor who is better then you are and use their strength to highlight your weakness. Be thankful for the knowledge because your competitor has just taught you a lesson about what you have to work on to be better.
  4. Be willing when its necessary to change your organisation, to pivot when appropriate. Its a fact that from time-to-time markets get disrupted and you must be able and willing to respond. Either you pivot to face your customers needs head on and commit to delivering on them or the market will abandon you. And if you’re in an organisation that doesn’t need to pivot (well lucky you) your job is to prepare the next managers so they know when to pivot and they can be brave enough to take the action necessary.
  5. Invest money, time and effort into others.

There is no winner, there is only Better Than or Behind!

Follow the 5 rules above and you stand a good chance of outperforming your goals, maybe the market too. But most importantly in an age where companies on average last not much more than 20 years, you stand a chance of still being around and relevant to your customers long after you have moved on leaving the organisation still operating and in a healthy state.

Philip Dawson MBA | Strategy Consultant | Trainer | Systems Thinker | Growth & Innovation Enthusiast

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