Stay The Course, Don’t Blink and Never Swerve

Great strategy requires a commitment to deliver. To stay the course and not weaken in the face of uncertainty or challenges. You could say that this simply requires courage, but in business, it takes a lot more. It requires a faith in the capability and character of your business built on the foundation of a two-way trust that often is neglected. But for those businesses that possess it, market leadership is the natural outcome.

Active Knowledge Question:

What does great strategy look like to you?

Real Strategy

Strategy can be said to be all about direction, alignment and focus. Determine the direction that the business should move in, ensure all resources are aligned with that direction and focus on that goal alone without distraction. Of course, many would say that setting strategy is the easy part and that the hardest is delivering on the goals that someone else has set.

This is the divide which can arise when formulation and implementation are seen as two distinct tasks. Strategy, when spoken about in this way, tends to fail as it is framed in the wrong way; formulation and implementation are a single continuum.

Strategy is never about what actions to take; it is only ever about building an organisation that is capable of orienteering its way to the right strategic goals. The real challenge lies in allowing strategy to be emergent, and even discovered, and not something which is necessarily deliberate and pre-determined.

The focus is on capability, with alignment to uplift performance and direction becoming one of orienteering.

Purpose frames the reason for a business’s existence and identifies the customers whom it seeks to serve and the needs that form the business’s chosen market. Vision will set the long-term goal, which should reflect achieving a position of delivering a customer value beyond anyone else’s imagination and capabilities.

Achieving a business’s purpose is the right strategy and building the organisational capability to orienteer its way to the vision that has been set is the outcome sought.

A Different Path

Strategic Planning is often tied to increases in revenue, reduction in costs, increased profit and what that all means for share value or ROI. This tends to be very short-term bursts of action to achieve a short-term outcome, at best, a three-year cycle. Profit-first is the motive that underpins this form of strategy.

The weakness of this profit-first driven strategy is that it undermines most attempts to really compound on what has already been built. And disempowers the inherent competitive strength of the business. In summary, the potential performance of the business can be blocked through a strategy that seeks to direct and control actions to increase short-term results.

So, while your strategy may identify a range of actions that may be taken to increase revenue etc. it must at the same time also empower the business to build its ability to compete. Always bear in mind that it is the combined talent and effort of everyone who works within and with a business that forms the core of the competitive strength of a business.

And it is the elements of the competitive engine that exists in every business that will allow you to take your business to an entirely new level of performance. Your engine sets the floor and ceiling to your business’s performance and success.

Never Swerve

The call to never swerve is not one of ‘playing chicken’ and looking failure in the eye and doing nothing about it. Rather it is a call to have faith in the capability of the business you have built and its ability to navigate a path aligned with purpose and towards vision.

Worthy leaders build trust and engagement and remove all the obstacles that hinder performance. They don’t blink, and they don’t swerve because they know the capability of their organisation to perform. They spend their time clearing the pathway for the business to move forward.

Here are some traits of ‘never swerve’:

  • Accept failures and build upon the learnings gained, do not allow a culture of fear to take hold in your business.
  • Remove all barriers that inhibit each and every person’s individual performance. These often take the form of paradigms that block new possibilities and opportunities and bureaucracy that creates processes, regulations and layers of authority that do little to support customer focus and customer value.
  • Focus on customer needs and delivering a value that outcompetes everyone else, not just for today but far more importantly for tomorrow. Define and deliver the next level of customer value so your competitors are always playing catchup and your customers wait in anticipation for what you will do next. Be an organisation that has a customer-first focus and not a profit-first focus.
  • Eliminate self-interest especially throughout your leadership team and implement a reward system that is equally available to all for their efforts, and which uplifts what is good for performance, and blocks what is bad.
  • See clearly an image of what your business will become, of what you are building, and seed this self-image into your organisation.
  • Become competitively fit and tactically alive as an organisation — a business that can move, adapt, shift, outpace and outperform its competitors.

Strategy is enablement; enabling your organisation to compete, to outcompete all others. Your markets and your customers may change, but your competitive engine will ensure your business predicts, adapts and continues to grow. You may pause, you may sidestep, you may go around, you may set an alternate course. But you won’t swerve at the last moment, and you won’t blink in doubt because you will see the future clearly as it is a future you are creating through the capability of your organisation.

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An entirely new level of performance.

Want to become a part of the Entrepreneurs+ Community and learn how to make your business competitively fit? Join now.

All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel

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