Last week, someone I work with said to me and my partner, ” You guys are better at tactics than strategy”. After being a little stunned by the comment, we turned to each other and said “Yah I guess we are… isn’t that where all the good money is to be made?”
It got me thinking about it though. I’ve found myself in several conversations lately where it feels like people are spending WAY too much time thinking about their “strategy” at the expense of executing well or profitably.
Strategies sound like this to me:
- “Let’s merge these three divisions together (at the expense of product/market focus).”
- “Let’s grab market share (at the expense of bottom-line profitability).”
- “Let’s create industry marketing partnerships (rather than figure out how to market ourselves).”
Tactics sound like this to me:
- “Let’s release new features that clients have been asking for and competitors don’t have.”
- “Let’s eliminate start-up fees that clients keep complaining about and test increasing other ‘more friendly’ fees to increase profitability.”
- “Let’s make buying easier by eliminating confusing product lines and/or pricing.”
My partner and I have been accused of not having enough “strategic vision” because we are too busy figuring out what will be easier, better, faster, more profitable for our clients. Maybe the difference between strategy and tactics is that “strategy” is nebulous market/business/industry stuff and “tactics” are more customer facing… which, isn’t business about making it easier for customers to get more of what they want (at a profit)?
In reading Richard Branson’s new book “Business Stripped Bare“, he seems to agree, “If you’re running an airline, a restaurant or any other kind of company, it’s the attention to detail that really defines great business delivery.”
Branson carries a notebook everywhere he goes. Most of his entries are like this one which Branson calls “the sort of dull, dreary, absolutely essential entries that everyone should be capable of writing, but so few do.” This is one of Branson’s recent entries while flying on Virgin Atlantic:
– dirty carpets, area around bow dirty, equipment: stainless steel, grotty
– choice of menu disappointing, prawns then lobster as a main course in Upper Class, chicken curry very bland, chicken should be cut in chunks, rice pretty dry, no Stilton available on cheeseboard
If BRANSON, as a multi-billionaire with tens of thousands of employees, makes a priority of looking at the fine details or tactics of how his customers are being served, then I have a feeling it had SOMETHING to do with why he has been so successful.
In making the iPod and iPhone, Steve Jobs didn’t use strategy to win the hearts of consumers. He rolled up his sleeves and looked at how to make listening to music and using your cell phone easier… a very profitable tactic! Why do so few other companies follow suit and focus on the details that really make a difference to people? Maybe they are too busy focusing on the next big strategy instead?