Wagging the Dog

strategic planSent: July 5, 8:35 a.m.

From: CEO

To: All Staff

Subject: NEW! Collaboration Tools

Good morning, everyone!

I hope everyone had a fun and festive holiday weekend. Welcome back! As we are now moving into the second quarter of the year, I wanted to touch base on a couple of important things.

First, we made great progress on our annual strategic goals! We are just a couple of months behind on the product development workstream, but I think if we really put our noses to the grindstone here in the second quarter, together we can make it happen. As you all know, product development is absolutely our most important goal this year, as we’re sure to get dusted by the competition if we don’t start next year with at least four new products on the shelf! So, it’s crunch time for sure.

Second, I want to announce that we’ve made an exciting new investment in technology and are going to be introducing an entirely new platform of collaboration tools. I know we have a lot going on in the second half, but it’s super exciting and we spent a ton of money on them, so we’re going to need to put our strategic plans on hold for about six to nine weeks while we get the new platform integrated. We’ll lose some time, but we can make it up in the fall, right? Go, team!

I know I told you all that product development takes precedence over everything else we tackle this year, but our biggest competitor is using this new collaboration tool; and if they can make time to get it installed, train everyone, and be fully operational in a year, so can we! And we have already paid the vendor and the license fees, so it’s happening— starting on Monday!

Your CEO

Annual strategic plan not going quite as well as you thought it would? Feeling behind or being eclipsed by the competition? Don’t get mad, get distracted! One of the best ways to take attention off of the fact that you have failed to lead your organization to strategic success is to throw something super tactical and strategically useless into the mix! Trendy technology is the absolute poster child for big distractions and can be used by the staff as a perfect excuse for why they didn’t meet their personal business objectives.

You can create mountains of distractions simply by introducing a big, new technology solution. You’ll have to create teams for developing requirements; bring in a super-distracting vendor team to interrupt everyone’s workday for a couple of months; create teams for focus groups; and shut down your current servers, website, email, etc. And if all goes according to your plan, it will take twice as long and cost twice as much as you’d hoped. Now you have a full-blown four-alarm fire to deal with, and your strategic plan will be forever lost and forgotten. This won’t be remembered as the year you blew your strategic goals; it will be remembered as the year you got saddled with that awful vendor! Whew! Winning!

Another method for taking attention away from a failing strategic initiative is to shine a big, bright light on your poorest-performing employee. You can saddle them with so much responsibility for executing said strategic plan that they become an incredibly valuable scapegoat when things don’t go according to plan. And in this case, this won’t be remembered as the year you blew your strategic goals; it will be remembered as the year you should have fired that train-wreck employee much sooner than you did. You just couldn’t because of your huge heart. Whew! Winning! Plus, the martyr card gets played!


Strategies aren’t projects, and they don’t get put on hold.

Strategy and strategic direction are long-term commitments about the direction a company is headed, and your job is to keep it headed in that (general) direction and not let it get interrupted, blown off course, or, worst of all, forgotten about entirely. Leaders will often knowingly or unknowingly allow or create other activities within the organization that quickly eclipse any attention or discussion of the grander plan.

When this happens, perhaps you should ask yourself if you created this distraction because it’s easier or has a clearer outcome, or to blame the strategy’s failure on someone other than yourself. Perhaps you created or allowed it because your strategic initiatives aren’t going to plan, and you can’t see a way to get them back on track.

Or perhaps you just can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

Any way you slice it, the lesson here is that all businesses need a strategic plan, and all leaders need to first focus themselves on that plan, then ensure that everyone in the organization is focused on the same plan. Aligning the people, processes, and, yes, even the platforms to that plan is what drives the business forward. It is not something that you put on hold, and it’s certainly not something that you trade for some other tactical initiative. Strategic direction is what you focus on and what gives you purpose.

To get your copy of “How (NOT) to Create a Winning Strategy” click here.