Strategy… now that’s the easy bit…


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In the previous post I wrote about the nature of strategy and how many people misunderstand the difference between a strategy and a strategic plan. With that in mind, this article covers the next stages of the strategic planning process, namely tactical planning & implementation.

In business, many senior people can often refer to themselves as ‘strategists’, which suggests that understanding or being able to develop a strategy is something to be revered. Indeed, the ability to be able to see “the bigger picture” doesn’t come easily to everyone. Having a person with this skill at the head of your business can often mean the difference between success and failure. That being said, developing a strategy is not the most difficult thing for the business to do. Making the strategy actually work is.

In most classic strategic planning models there will be a series of stages involved with the successful implementation of a strategy. My personal favourite is SOSTAC® from Paul R. Smith , which is an acronym that represents the words Situation (Analysis), Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Actions and Controls. Situation Analysis utilises research & business diagnostics to understand the company in relation to its competitors & customers; Objectives is all about goal setting (the “what”), Strategy is the “way” in which you achieve the objective; and Tactics & Actions are “how” you go about realising the strategy. The tactics and actions provide the detail for the project plan to be carried out. Controls cover the measures & governance that a business might put in place to control this entire process.

Virtual_Interactive_Kinetic_IntelligenceAs the computer VIKI in the film I, Robot suggests, the “logic is undeniable”. However it is neither the strength of the strategy nor the logic of this process that determines the success or failure of the strategy. It is the nature of the implementation that makes all the difference.

Implementation isn’t just about building a project plan and then carrying it out. Take Customer Experience, for example. At a tactical level it looks at the existing customer journey; the ideal customer journey; the gaps between the two; and then identifies ‘initiatives’ that can help the business to close the gaps. This sounds like the right way to plan the project; however how can the business be absolutely sure that the project will maintain traction? Even after a project has been successfully implemented; how can the business ensure that new products continue to be sold and new processes continue to be followed?

Phrases such as ‘alignment’ and ‘embedding’ are utilised in this context; however for many business these factors remain the most mysterious & difficult to realise. In reality, these things are far harder to get right than the strategy. For most business these phrases are thrown around like buzzwords, but are never truly understood.

At the heart of these concepts their lies more emotion than logic. These are the elements that rely on factors such as leadership, business culture and employee engagement/ experience, which can all too easily be lost amongst the details of a logical project plan. Most businesses will, in fact, go out of their way to squash any emotions out of their day-to-day operations.

Emotions are spoken about a lot in Customer Experience circles, with many discussions about them in the context of successful customer service delivery. However how can companies make their frontline staff “be more empathetic” with customers when they are being paid just a few dollars/ euros/ pounds above the minimum wage?

The companies that get Customer Experience right don’t always pay the best wages. However they do understand that emotions should not be squashed but harnessed. They typically have business culture, employee engagement & leadership at the top of their agendas, understanding that they cannot simply be left down to the detailed logical structure of a project plan.

As I said… strategy….now that’s the easy bit…

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Williams
A customer experience specialist who works with organisations that understand that by placing customer value at the heart of the business' operations, they not only deliver enhanced customer experiences; but also discover the secret to driving improved business profitability. Has worked with organisations such as TalkTalk, Prudential, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services & E.ON.


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