5 April 2016

Strategy 101 – Staying Relevant When Everything is Changing

Author: Kyle Hauptfleisch

Achieving something is tough without defining that something in the first place. This seems obvious, but the amount of businesses that scatter their forces and send various departments in completely different directions is frightening. One would think that’s the point of a strategy, and one would be right; yet most strategies are too rigid, don’t account for dynamic environments and become redundant before they’re even implemented.

A strategy needs to be more than just a game plan. A great strategy needs a solid model – directing the course of action; feeding it with new insights. It needs to be dynamic, adjustable and capable of evolving to new circumstances swiftly and efficiently. A great strategy needs to be able to handle the variables that come with any landscape. Elon Musk does this well. His entire career is based on one relatively simple model. Tim Urban describes it in the final part of his four part series on the man himself.

“Big data” is the rhetorical solution when companies debate about strategy internally. And it’s easy to get obsessed with the concept. Although vital to collect, on its own data is pretty much useless. It can be likened to a cake. Ever tried flour on its own? Or eaten two cups of sugar? Yet add a few more ingredients, mix it together, bake it for an hour and you have yourself one of life’s most precious joys. And, like any recipe, dumping the ingredients into a bowl and expecting a Cake Boss experience is naïve. When someone, or something, makes sense of the data, joins the dots…information is born. It is the cake we are after.

In order for a strategy to stay relevant, it needs an input of information; something to learn from. It requires news about the road map to the destination – its environment, its challenges and its opportunities. The thinking that founds a good strategy can be applied to other circumstances or industries. Almost any area of your life can be improved using this methodology. Isolate what the goal is, assess the current assets – this can be anything from skills to a shopping basket – and devise a road map to the objective leveraging said assets as much as possible.

The overall objective is important as it allows you to keep perspective when the environment changes. Take grocery shopping for example, one can get flustered when one loses sight of the overarching goal. Unless you have a specific reason to make a curry, it’s merely a potential solution to the real objective – a delicious dinner. So when the grocer is out of that local sought-after curry powder, a quick pivot, and you’re on your way to a hearty beef stew.

Extending the analogy, a good example of data would be finding out that there is a regional chilli shortage. It makes sense – it’s difficult to get a hold of chillies at the moment – but what does that mean? The lovely souls making the curry power cannot do so without the main ingredient, chilli.  All of a sudden, that data is information. Like curry powder, think of information as processed data.

Just as it is silly to bake a cake if no one is going to eat it, developing a comprehensive strategy without implementing it is a waste. Great strategies need action, motion, churn. It needs to be applied in order to gain more data. A feedback loop is essential. The most relevant information is going to be that derived from feedback during implementation.

With technology facilitating the disruption of almost every known industry, businesses cannot afford to create and attempt to execute strategies without taking dynamism into account. Kodac, Yahoo, Blockbuster are examples on the growing list of companies believed to be “house hold brands” that are now silhouettes of their hay day selves.

About the author:
Kyle is the sales director at Dash of Lime (Primedia Online). He is passionate about humans, digital and any food that is not marzipan. He is also an avid believer in a selling process that is ‘value centric’. Rule of thumb: make or sell things (products, services, paradigms etc.) that solve problems; that way selling is easy, ethical and not conducive to banging heads against walls.
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