Strategy and tactics - two critical elements of executing your plan and being a successful business. The great news is that one feeds into the other, they do and should relate to each other.
The strategy is your true north - the vision you, your leadership team and possibly your team have developed as a long term vision and direction you are heading as a business. I have discussed how important this is multiple times in previous blogs and posts on LinkedIn. Without a vision, the collective efforts most likely are pushing and pulling the company in all sorts of directions. Without this goal, team members won’t know what is priority and what isn’t. Without this guidance an organisation will have difficulty measuring progress towards success. How do they know if they have got to the goal?
Organisations can increase their chances of growth by 30% simply by having a plan in place. Even better, a business is twice as likely to be successful once a plan is in place. Veskaisri, Chan & Pollard (2007) found that there is a positive Relationship between strategic planning and SME success. The numbers stack up and reinforce the need to have a clear, succinct plan in place that is a functional, living strategy. So despite all of this evidence, It is confusing why so many businesses still fail to implement this basic business task. Don’t believe me? Last year (2021) Te Waka - Waikato’s Economic Development Agency discovered that 50% of businesses with 1-10 employees did not have a basic business plan in place.
If you didn’t know it already, you should start understanding why strategy is important. It is the sole reason why I use LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP) as a methodology to help teams create, discuss and collaborate a story that embodies what is important to them. Collectively creating that true north as a team.
That is step one. Having a plan is one thing, going through the exercise to break it down into actionable tasks is another important element of the process. Having a collective understanding of the strategy will increase the chances of success. The conversations, discussions and clarifications are an essential aspect of the planning process. The bonus with LSP is that it is a fun and positive way to facilitate these types of conversations within teams and achieve a collective understanding of everyone involved.
That is the strategy sorted, but what about the tasks required to achieve it. Enter the next two critical steps - Translation and Monitoring. It sounds like a simple and logical step, but it is amazing for the small minority of businesses that do have a plan of some sort - most of these are hidden away in the bottom drawer or a restricted file that never sees the light of day….. Well until the next plan is due.
This requires regular, consistent and disciplined systems to keep it alive, relevant and up to date. First task is to translate the plan into actionable tasks, the second is talking about how you and the team are going to monitor organisational progress / performance against these goals. Gomera & Walter (2016) found there was a strong correlation between strategic planning and business performance in small, micro and medium scale enterprises (SMMEs). There is a simple reason for this - if teams are involved in the planning process and have clarity on the ‘why’, it is more motivating to put the effort into delivering success. Team members also have 100% clarity on the expectations.
Establishing the tactics or actions is important and can be daunting. Like most things, it doesn’t have to be that at all. If your goals are two years away, ask yourself, where do you need to be in one year to be on track, then 6 months, next 2 months, you get the idea. Each time you back-chain the milestones you are achieving two things. The first are the actual tasks required. I have taken a team through this exercise and we got down to them understanding the reason and importance of a phone call they needed to make that week. So each task can be attributed directly to a goal. The second outcome is that you are establishing performance monitoring criteria.
Once this is completed, prioritise the actions. Make them part of the weekly team meeting, even better put them up on a wall and make them visual (see photo below). If each team is consistently reviewing the actions, linking them to the overall goal there is a significant chance you will achieve the goals. Even better, if the environment changes, the team will be well in tune to identify, adapt and enable a change in the situation. Scope what is ahead each week or fortnight, then judge what tasks can be achieved given the workload. Each time you are constantly re-evaluating the priorities, value of not just your strategy but also the daily work ahead of the team.
It is ok to change the actions, plans or even the overall strategy and direction. It was only a few years ago when 5, 10, 15 year strategies used to be the norm. Now I urge businesses not to look longer than 3. Build a system that allows quick and nimble change, one that as many of your team members are involved. At the end of the day, they are the ones who will make or break the success of the business. So it makes sense to engage them all along the process and then empower them to act on the vision for your company.
There you have it - why it is important to have a strategy but also how tactics can inform the big picture. Just one request - make every step an open and transparent process for as many people as possible.