By Paul Raggio
Co-owner, One True North
One of the all-time great World War II movies was the 1967 film “The Dirty Dozen.”
The plot centers on a U.S. Army major, played by the iconic actor Lee Marvin, leading a dozen hardened Army criminals turned commandos. Their top-secret mission is to take down a chateau in Northern France, housing senior officers of the German Wehrmacht, the day before the Normandy offensive.
Their purpose is to disrupt the German chain of command, thus increasing the success probability of the D-Day invasion. One particularly memorable scene in the movie is when the dozen commandos, in unison, were rhyming the 16 steps they needed to take in assaulting the chateau. The major completed his strategic thinking, and now the team was execution planning.
The most common strategic planning sessions I’ve seen are with many senior people brainstorming great ideas and turning them into goals misaligned with the vision or mission of the organization. After the planning session, the leaders park these big, audacious goals without identifying the necessary milestones or assigning responsibility to team members to achieve them. Parked they stay, never to see the light-of-day until the next annual strategic planning session. Meanwhile, the company goes about its day-to-day business lacking the focus and direction to sustain and grow the organization.
Strategic thinking, execution planning is a discipline. It’s what creates sustainability in organizations and is part of the definition of a successful business: one that is sustainable, predictable, stable, consistent — and has an emotional connection. For a business to be sustainable, its leadership must seek out and seize opportunities when created. Then leverage their existing team, systems, capacity, capital to get more out of less. They need to understand who is willing to buy the product or service at the specified price and time, then create the ability to scale when demand increases. With strategic thinking, execution planning mindset, you position your organization to win in the marketplace.
When seeking opportunities in the marketplace, your leadership team should be asking what needs are out there we can fulfill. Answering this question requires understanding your market, the customer’s needs, continual research, and exploiting created opportunities. If you’re waiting for an opportunity, just like you would for a lottery payoff, then your business will never be sustainable. Your team creates opportunities through hard work and a constant assessment of the marketplace and how your products or services meet the demand of your ideal customers.
Rarely does a business use all that it has optimally: the leadership fails to recognize the hidden talent in some team members; a process may have unnecessary steps that impact production; the team uses only ten percent of an acquired suite of technology. Imagine the bottom-line impact if the organization were to put their existing resources to better use, leveraging all they have, thus making what they do have, go further. Businesses that understand where to apply leverage are sustainable.
Marketability of a product or service is you knowing who is willing to buy at a specific price and time. How do you position your product or service in front of the right audience who has a need that you fulfill? How easy is it for you to get in front of the right audience, and is it affordable? How well do you communicate to the right audience what your product or service fulfills so they’re confident your solution solves their problem? Answer these questions with affirmative strategies, and your business is sustainable.
Building and sustaining an organization with a solid foundation that can expand and contract vertically and horizontally defines scalability. Sustainable businesses quickly adapt to market conditions. They create dynamic strategies to flex when changes occur and readily acclimatize those changes organizationally. How agile your organizational structure is to accommodate increases in sales volume while maintaining or improving profit margins is a measure of your scalability.
The discipline of strategic thinking, execution planning is how your business will be sustainable. Practice this discipline quarterly, and you’ll ensure the longevity of your business. Gather your leaders, brainstorm great ideas, align them with the organization’s vision, then create big, audacious goals with defined milestones, assign them to champions and watch your organization grow. Just as the Dirty Dozen was part of the strategic thinking that brought success during the Allied Forces’ Normandy invasion, they could have lost their strategic contribution to the war effort if those 12 failed to do their execution planning.
Strategic thinking, execution planning is how we lead, think, plan and act! Now let’s get after it.
Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions.