09 May Ten things I have learned about strategy and planning
Strategy and planning is our core business. But it is rarely an easy ride. Something I have pondered about in the past is Why is developing digital strategy is so damn difficult? Having just finished a significant piece of strategy development work I thought it might be worthwhile sharing some of the things I have learnt along the way about strategy and planning.
You might recognise some of these? You probably have something to add. You might disagree with everything I am saying! Whichever applies I would love to hear from you.
One – take a big breath
There is no easy way to get to grips with an entirely new problem, business or sector. It requires full and complete immersion. In fact some planners call it that. So, when the client says ‘yes’, take a big breath. You are going in. Deep.
Two – apply a planning model
Planning models and frameworks are an essential part of your toolkit. There are many. Not the sort of thing you find in the management consultancy section in airport bookshops … a proper marketing planning framework. But remember, each client and each problem is different. The real skill is applying the right model in the right way.
Three – find a way to make it doable
With all those ifs, buts and maybes flying around your head sometimes it’s difficult to find a way forward. What you need, during those occasionally dark times, is a solution that feels ‘doable’. It might not be the right one but it will give you enough direction and something to critique that it will help you on your way to finding the right solution.
Four – involve others
Two, three, four … more heads are better than one. Those people that work in and to the business will understand the business better than you. Don’t forget it. Involve them in the process. Not only will the final outcome be a better one but it will be one that people are bought into. That’s really important.
Five – direction is more important than perfection
Moving forward with something that is 75% right is better than deliberating for too long and coming up with something that is 90% right. Create a strategy and delivery approach that supports ongoing optimsation and improvement. Test and Learn. Fail better fail faster. Doesn’t matter what call it.
Six – deal with the unknown
We expect to have all the knowledge and insight we need at our fingertips to help us make the right strategic decisions. Wake up! In the real world (yes, even the data driven one we all talk about) it is likely you will have to deal with some significant gaps. Fill those gaps where you can and address the ones you can’t ‘moving forward’.
Seven – it’s never finished
So, don’t even try. Create clear expectations and a defined set of deliverables but be honest with yourself and your client. Any strategy will develop over time. There’s nothing wrong with having a list of issues that represent a work in progress. Don’t write big documents that sit on the shelf and nobody reads.
Eight – think delivery
Make it simple enough to deliver. Then make it simpler again. Work with the resources you have and create an appropriate set of priorities. Phases and staged delivery is good. A successful strategy should help the business put the right things at the top of the to-do list.
Nine – change is everything
Strategy provides the basis for change. Change can be uncomfortable. Developing strategy very quickly becomes change management. Take account of that. The successfully implementation of your strategy depends on it.
Ten – it’s all encompassing
One blog each month. That’s all. So, what happened to April?
You see what I mean …