If the horse is the strategy and the cart is the action, which comes first? It seems obvious, but we’ve noticed that this isn’t always the reality.
Everyone’s intentions are good. We’re busily and noisily filling the cart with projects we’re overseeing, meetings to be at, customers to service and financial overviews to complete. And the larger the organization, the more amplified it gets.
The horse waits quietly – looking on from behind.
We stop, glance around and realize: if only we’d hitched the cart to the back of the horse – we might even be there by now.
Valuing Action Is Easy, Appreciating Strategy Is Hard
The point is that neither action nor strategy alone will work. They need to work together – but in the correct order.
Human beings like to ‘do’. In scale-up businesses, resources and budget are under pressure, and time is precious. So “Getting On With Things’ can feel more productive. Time dedicated to strategizing about what you’re ‘going to do’ can feel like a rather extravagant way to produce a ‘to-do’ list.
And it’s not just the smaller, entrepreneurial environments where this is happening. CEOs and leadership teams of giant corporations and brands are getting embroiled in the day-to-day operations, people and budget management. They know strategy matters, but they just don’t have the ‘time for it’ when there’s so much to ‘do’.
Taking Up The Strategic Reins
How do businesses place value on strategy when it’s so intangible and, to many, apparently subjective?
Strategy is where you set and test your business and brand success with proof. You scrutinize your numbers, analyze your data, seek views from your people, customers and stakeholders, brainstorm with your key decision-makers and allow space for creativity and innovation. It is ‘real’.
Mckinsey make the point that “The critical factor that distinguishes strategically managed companies from their counterparts is not the sophistication of their planning techniques but rather the care and thoroughness with which they link strategic planning to operational decision making.”
The goal? To have in place a distilled, relevant framework that leaders can actively steer and the whole business can ‘own’ through united action.
A Strategist Will Save You Time And Money
Strategy is best done today because it’s about tomorrow.
We work with many companies and leaders who come to us because they’ve hit a critical point. The CEO, CMO or Director has got enveloped in the busyness of the daily-do and may be hesitant to commit resources, budget and time to external providers.
But if you knew that strategy would increase productivity, cost efficiencies, creativity – growth – why wait?
Strategists work at pace, bring fresh perspective and challenge from a position of knowledgeable authority. They serve as a ‘critical friend’ that is positively looking for ways to create opportunities to get your brand and business growing in the right direction for the most efficient cost.
Strategy Boosted Action
Take The Co-Op and Nisa, with whom we have co-created strategy since 2018. Initially brought in to help build out the customer strategy for the food business, Spark* Workshops have become an invaluable and regularly integrated tool across the wider business, including Co-op Insurance, Funeralcare and Legal Services. Customer & Community Director Ali Jones says: “We’ve seen and experienced the value in these pieces of work, and regularly carve space out for them in our processes to help crystallize our thinking and focus our actions. We are always looking at how we evolve our brand and customer strategy, especially as lockdown unlocks, and having that outside input and challenge keeps us on our toes – and on track.”
At Decathlon UK, Marketing Director Chris Gilroy would agree. He needed the best team possible to help him prepare for the biggest brand relaunch in 20 years when he started his new role there in December last year. He says, “I turned to Tasha and the team at Flintlock to help me form a new brand and communications framework. In record time we got into understanding the customer, the market and the opportunity to position our brand. They were able to facilitate internal strategy alignment workshops to understand the business and what’s unique about it,”
“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 per cent return on energy!”
Brian Tracy, author and motivational speaker
“The longest way around is often the shortest way home.”