Strategic Planning or Tactical Mediocrity?
“Strategic planning or tactical mediocrity? Each firm has the choice.” This was the eye-catching headline of
an article by Scott Clark, a sales consultant from Iowa. Now, think fast. Which is your company: (a) one with
management that is strategically focused, constantly thinking in a strategic mode, watching for changes and opportunities in the world around you? Or, (b) does your management team spend their time putting out fires and dealing with the tactical, day-to-day, operational issues of the business?
If your response was ‘b’, “dealing with the operational tactics that just keep the business going”, odds are that no one is strategically focused on the future of the business. Anyone devoting all of his time focused internally, dealing with inventory levels, equipment malfunctions, supplier and distribution issues, and human resources issues will be unable to focus strategically, missing the big picture so necessary for a successful and profitable future. Who is watching for opportunities on which to capitalize? This scenario is known as spending time working in your business, not on your business.
Many firms think they are strategically focused. After all, they schedule a planning session every year. Doesn’t that make them strategically managed? Not by a long shot. Spending a day or two at a retreat and coming away with something passing for a strategic plan does not guarantee success or change the way a firm operates. If no one routinely analyzes the strengths that led you to the level of success you hold today, or the weaknesses that held you back from becoming more than an ‘OK’ company, why would anything change? Why should you be more successful than you already are…assuming you are successful in the first place? Do your core competencies poise you to merely maintain your position against competition, or to jump ahead when an opportunity arises? Will they help or hinder you in finding new markets, developing and introducing new products or services?
A management team focused day in and day out on the status quo, giving attention only to immediate, short-term issues, will doom a company to stagnating at that level indefinitely. Or worse yet, they will doom the company to failure due to their inability to see or understand what is happening around them in terms of competition, or customer needs and preferences. This does not even include awareness of constant changes in the environmental, political, economic, technological and sociological spheres that make up that big world around us in which we strive for success.
It is imperative for the firm that dreams of success to move their management team toward strategic thinking as the first step to becoming truly strategically planned and managed. Of course, your company must deal with the day-to-day issues that keep it operating smoothly; that is essential for any company. Just be sure that internal, tactical focus does not exclude that external, big picture focus critical for a strategic approach to success.