This blog post is the fourth in a series of six that dives deep into the proven methodology developed and used by TACK10 throughout the client process. Each week, TACK10 Group President and CEO James Chalmers takes you through one of the five pillars of our methodology, detailing how it was developed and how it can be deployed. This series will inform you of how best to reach your objectives and hopefully inspire you to think critically about “what keeps you up at night?” Just tuning in now? Read Part 1 of 6 here.
So we are now 4 weeks into our 6 week series on the performance methodology at TACK10 and I have a confession. I am absolutely loving the process of writing these blogs to share with you. Why? It is pretty simple… I have been fortunate to have had a very successful career because I have been able to build some remarkable teams and have worked with great partners and companies along the journey. These experiences have taught me a tremendous amount about successful strategy, strategy that has failed to meet our objectives, and most importantly why a strategy was either successful or not. Having to reflect back on these experiences, I find myself thinking about all of the great teams I have had the great fortune to work with over the years.
Strategy is about determining the “How”; how we are going to get there and what tactics to use to accomplish our objectives. Simply put, Strategy is our Action Plan and Strategy informs our Tactics. There is also a myth around strategy. We often hear talk of ‘the’ winning strategy and the assumption is there cannot be more than one strategy to achieve success. There are often multiple strategies that work together to deliver a winning result.
As we focus on the “How” that is strategy, it is extremely important to understand that being “better” is not a strategy. The market place today is as dynamic as ever and technology has pushed the boundary of competitive advantages. We are all under extreme pressure to be more productive, more efficient and deliver a better overall service or product. Simply being better should in no way instill confidence that you will be successful. The fact is the market is moving so quickly that if we focus on being better, we will be overtaken and left behind. Being better is about fine tuning a process and that can be easily imitated and surpassed. What is needed is for us to be different! Different is where strategy gets real.
When I assess whether strategy was successful or not there are a few key learnings that I can take away. The majority of best performing programs share these attributes:
- A clear and identifiable strategy to building out a set of tactics
- Limiting the number of tactics to only your best performing tactics (5 or less)
- Being flexible in the delivery of the tactics to tailor to the environment
- Being prepared for the unexpected and being ready to pivot or tack
- Keeping the delivery of the tactics (the “program”) simple
1 – Clear and Identifiable Strategy
There is an easy way to keep ourselves accountable to this first attribute. The test I like to use for whether our strategy and tactics are clear and identifiable is the “3rd party ask.” If I can share our game plan with a 3rd party who is not privy to the background or specifics of the project, they should be able to identify our strategy and tactics. This is important for many reasons. The single biggest reason is that quite often the execution or activation is done by individuals or groups that were not part of the development process. We do however need everyone involved to understand the “How” – Tactics, the “What” – Objectives, and the “Why” – our ultimate Goal.
2 – Limiting the Number of Tactics
We have talked about this point before through the Rule of 1 – 3 – 5. As a quick recap this stands for having 1 unified and ultimate goal (“The Why”), no more than 3 measurable objectives (“The What”) and no more than 5 tactics to reach the objectives (“The How”). While we say no more than 5 tactics, most projects or programs can benefit from limiting the number of tactics to 3 where possible. We all know that 80% of our performance tends to come from 20% of our efforts. We like to focus on the 20% of our efforts that return the best return on investment and have them become our entire effort.
3 – Being Flexible
Flexibility and adaptability are easy ways to get more out of your efforts. To differentiate flexibility or adaptability from being prepared for the unexpected, consider the first part to be about day to day elements such as weather, traffic patterns at an event, reception of your tactics and needing to adjust approach. Being prepared for the unexpected is about acts that occur that are much larger such as a post going viral on social media, a major slip by a competitor or a huge recall on a competitor’s product. You need to be prepared to adjust your delivery and have plans B, C and even D in place.
4 – Being Prepared
Being prepared for the unexpected means planning for scenarios that you can both imagine and those that never even came to mind. Unlike the previous element, this is not about adjusting course or moving to plan B… This is a potential game changer and you need to be prepared to play a different game all together. In recent years I think a great example is Heinz closing their Ketchup manufacturing facility in Leamington, Ontario. Out of a resulting viral social post, French’s was able to take advantage of the unexpected through their partnership with Food Banks Canada. This is not a scenario that you can realistically plan for. What you can plan for, is being ready for the unexpected. This often involves an element of culture shift and internal change. Tangibly and in the shorter term it generally means leaving a few open spaces in any game plan highlighted as the unexpected. The best way to be prepared for the unexpected is to expect that it is going to happen and be ready and willing to take advantage to strike when the moment is right.
5 – Keeping the Delivery Simple
As you can tell by now, keeping things simple is actually part of each and every step. A clear and identifiable strategy by nature will be simple and free of clutter or noise. Limiting the number of tactics simplifies the area of focus. Programs that are kept simplistic are measurably more adaptable to be flexible by their nature. Lastly, being prepared for both the expected and unexpected means having strategy that can be efficiently and effectively pivoted or altered when the need arises. This is only possible with a simple delivery of tactics.
The Final Bell
I certainly hope you find yourself thinking about these 5 points when you are reflecting on your own programs or looking forward to new initiatives. As always, I love hearing about where you agree, but even more so, I like to get messages that challenge these ideas. It is in questioning and challenging ourselves and our industries to do better that we all grow, learn and become stronger and more impactful.