Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Balancing innovative change and ongoing reliable stability and consistency 5: strategic thinking, planning and execution 2

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 24, 2017

This is my 5th installment to a series in which I explore tactical and strategic approaches to business management and leadership, and best practices approaches for coordinately pursuing both as context dictates. See Business Strategy and Operations – 4, postings 655 and loosely following for Parts 1-4.)

I offered a still to consider, list of to-address points for this series at the end of Part 4 that I repeat here as a starting point for this step in this series’ overall discussion:

1. I will move on in this narrative to discuss the questions of identifying disconnects in this (nota bene: between strategy and tactics), and as early as possible when they do arise.
2. And I will consider and discuss startups, as a business context where founding executives can find themselves facing learning curve challenges in understanding and addressing the issues that I raise here,
3. And the sometimes significant challenges that large and complex business organizations can create in aligning strategy and tactics, with effective disconnect identification and remediation implemented as a core ongoing due diligence process.
4. And I will return again to my starting case study example for this series, to consider lessons learnable and remediative approaches that might be possible for that business – and at least some of the trade-offs that would have to be resolved in that too.
5. And that … is where some very specific, crucial negotiations-related issues enter into this series’ narrative.

And I begin here in this posting with the first of those five points, and by highlighting the obvious: change happens and the unexpected and even disruptively unexpected happens too, and disconnects do arise between what is expected and planned for, and what is actually faced. Disconnects happen, and between longer-term overarching strategic planning and actually encountered reality faced, and between more here-and-now tactical planning and its expectations and the reality that is suddenly encountered and that has to be operationally addressed. And certainly when tested by the disruptively unexpected, disconnects can arise between strategy and tactics in place.

So my goal for this posting is not to offer or even suggest the existence of some magical management process that would eliminate uncertainty or the appearance of the unexpected, or the occurrence of disconnects between what was planned for and prioritized, and what has to actually be done next and how. My goal here is to address the issues of limiting the occurrence of these disruptions to the truly unavoidable, and it is to offer at least an orienting overall approach for responding to these events when they do arise, and more efficiently and smoothly so their impact can be kept as limited as possible,

• And both for their reach throughout your business systems and in how they would affect your customers and other external stakeholders, and
• Over time, where these events would be resolved as quickly as possible,
• And with lessons learned and operationalized so your next such disruptive event is not simply going to be a repeat of one already faced.

How do you best “identify disconnects in this, and as early as possible when they do arise”? This begins with really tracking where you are now and how you got there so you can, among other things have a capability for identifying drift or overt shift from what you would expect and have planned and prepared for, to an unexpected new.

Ultimately, this is an information development and management problem and a communications problem. Even perfect information and communications systems, with all necessary information developed and organized and shared as needed, and real-time cannot prevent the completely novel and unexpected. But good information management and communications practices can help you, and your at least potentially affected stakeholders, from being blindsided and certainly from more gradual drift from the expected – and before a crisis tipping point has been reached from that.

Let’s consider this from a strategy and tactics perspective and more specifically in terms of how the two do and do not effectively connect together in day-to-day and longer term business planning and execution. And I begin by offering a simplifying division of labor understanding of what strategy and tactics are, in practical day-to-day terms:

• Strategy tells you and the members of your overall business team what to do and with what priorities and for achieving what goals,
• And Tactics map out how to accomplish that and with both task selection and completion, and results and performance benchmarking and reviews included for better carrying out next steps, and subsequent occurrences of those same tasks.

So ultimately, this posting is about understanding and bridging any potential gaps between knowing what to do and knowing how to do it, and in the face of a lack of perfect information availability and in the face of sometimes genuinely unpredictable change and disruption.

I noted earlier in this posting, the importance of learning from challenges faced so the next disruptive disconnect between strategy in place and its tactical implementation is not going to be a repeat of one already faced – but not apparently, effectively learned from. Recurring instances of some same disconnect, and of a disconnect that rises in level of significance so as to merit specific focused action, reflects a structural failing in either the underlying strategy itself where it does not meet actual needs or circumstances faced, in the tactically defined and shaped processes in place that should implement strategy, or both.

• One-off disconnects that are corrected for by type and that would not recur as a result, are learning curve opportunities and opportunities to keep the business more agile and effective in the face of ongoing change.
• Recurring disconnects and certainly recurring ones of some same basic type, call for a more specifically corrective remediation response and in the business systems in place. They constitute red flag warnings of what might be wider and more pervasive underlying problems in the strategic plans and in the operationalized tactical planning in place, and can in fact primarily represent points where wider underlying business systems challenges are prone to visibly erupt.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will focus on one key word in the above cited Point 1: “early.” Then I will then proceed from there to at least start a discussion of Point 2 of the to-address list offered at the top of this posting:

• Startups, as a business context where founding executives can find themselves facing learning curve challenges in understanding and addressing the issues that I raise here.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

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