Strategy & Small Business: Some Thoughts

During the course of trying to understand small business and their needs, we seemed to have spotted a pattern. Most (not all) small business leaders feel spending time / money / effort on “Strategy” as not too useful! The predominant feeling is execution, talent, retention are all bigger problems than “Strategy”!

But this thought process has caused them to fall into the symptom Vs root cause syndrome. Issues around execution, talent and retention are often symptoms or manifestation of a deeper organizational disconnect. If that is not addressed, the leaders without their conscious knowledge spend time, energy and effort addressing the symptoms repeatedly. What most leaders forget is that beyond a certain threshold size- articulation, dissemination, alignment, measurement and constant discussions about “Strategy” can bring about faster growth and in fact redress some of the above symptoms quoted as problems!

What keeps the entrepreneur CEO from giving importance to arriving at a comprehensive strategic plan?

If we look closely we can draw parallels to this from how we react to the science of problem solving. Today problem solving has devolved into responding, if not reacting to a situational symptom. Action is always at a premium. Especially when one is small in size; everything seems to hit the core survival aspect. But problem solving in actual, has a much bigger context where all aspects are thought through, options analyzed, decisions debated and actions charted out.

This practice of problem solving in its true spirit is not something that is highly encouraged amongst people. One prominent reason being, it does not result in tangible outcome except suggesting solutions to problems. Since most people have had experiences where the solution has almost always been in line with the intuitive solution – why waste time confirming and constraining the intuitive response? Valid reasoning – isn’t it?

However we have come across many cases where what seems like a problem to the leader  may not be the problem in reality. Hence even the most intuitive solution may not provide relief. But nobody wants to agree that they are wrong in their identification of a problem – because very often it reflects their own mistake! So when we take them through the aspect of problem solving the right way, the first revelation that it almost always has, is a redefinition of the problem statement and hence a much more effective solution.

“Strategy” for business is in many forms similar to problem solving. It provides us with options, analysis and routes one can take, the preparation one has to make to reach the choice of their destination. Very often it helps in redefining the destination itself making the journey more meaningful. In business as in any other pursuit of life, the bigger the bet, the more the preparation that it requires. But in reality bigger the bet – quicker is the action sought! These contradicting forces of patient planning and exhilarating action, is one of the key reasons why leaders avoid or rush through strategic planning process. Understanding this could help us give this key process its rightful due in terms of time and effort!

 

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