No organization is immune to challenges, not if it has any ambition. But how do we as owners and leaders put our strategy hat on to see down the road, or attempt to see, to predict where markets will go, how customers will act and react? To play the great game of chess in the real world – which is strategy.
Sometimes that is easier said than done. The eloquent Mike Tyson put it so well when he said, “everybody has a plan until I punch them in the mouth.” We would do well to remember how limited our brilliant strategies in fact are, how fragile in the face of ambiguity, uncertainty and future black swan events.
Just look to history to see how companies have been blindsided with the punch they never saw coming. Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975, but put launch on hold in fear of cannibalizing their film business. We all know the story from there….Kodak who? Or take Blockbuster – which failed to pivot when Netflix showed up. And then Borders and Barnes & Noble, crushed under the Amazon onslaught. And the examples of business strategy gone wrong go on…
Strategic planning alone does not equate to success. The US military has a good practical way of looking at strategy and execution. Their saying is: right people, right resources, right place – get it about right.
My favorite Peter Drucker line is still: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” We all know this to be intuitively true. You can have a marvelous plan, and it won’t amount to a hill of beans compared with far more powerful and pervasive and harder to quantify things like culture. And emotion.
The strength of leadership on demand is this synthesis between smart strategy development and tactics, and a boatload of practicality when it comes to execution, implementation, and outstanding leadership.
Expert interim CEO Dick Lindenmuth puts it this way: “every day is not a strategic business day.” He means that so much of great leadership is doing the small things right. Walking the shop floor and hearing the team talk about minor improvements, that, added up, will make for a better business. Checking in every day with the team to make sure improvement is continuous. Rewarding even small improvements to reinforce right actions.