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Strategy vs Operational Effectiveness – Are You Clear On The Difference? | Issue #137

Step back for a moment.  Imagine you’re looking at your industry as a whole. What do you see?  My bet is a whole host of companies doing roughly the same thing.  With no discernable differences between them.  Yes, some may be more profitable.  Others might offer slightly different services or products.  But, by and large, it’s hard to tell them apart.

This is called strategic convergence and it happens when you focus too much on operational effectiveness at the expense of strategy.  You see one of your competitors doing something, so you copy it.  They in turn copy something that you’re doing. A third company notices this activity and copies both.  Over time, instead of having a map with companies widely dotted around it doing different things, the activities converge.  Staff move from one to another, products and services lose any differentiation, the cost to deliver is the same and there’s no sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.

We see this often in the businesses we coach.  They tell us they have a strategy. We delve deeper and discover an Excel spreadsheet with a basic business plan.  What they need is a business model based firmly on a differentiated strategy.  However, when we start discussing strategy, many of the things they suggest as strategic elements are actually around operational effectiveness.  It seems it’s hard to tell the difference.

So how about you?  Are you clear on the difference between strategy and operational effectiveness?  Because one thing’s for sure.  If you’re not, it’s unlikely that you’ll achieve the growth you crave.

Reframing, innovation and problem solving with Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg

How do you solve problems? Are you even trying to solve the actual problem that needs solving? Today’s guest is so good at solving problems they named him twice, Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg. 

Thomas has developed a theory of problem-solving, but that’s not what he talks about in this latest episode. 

No, in this conversation, he talks about how you can deliberately spend time stepping away from the problem in order to look at it differently, how can you reframe the problem, and then how can you come up with a different solution to solving the problem, before moving on. 

Thomas spent 7 years studying innovation, and it was then he realised that the more things didn’t work, it wasn’t that people weren’t innovating correctly, they were solving the wrong problem. This is all discussed in his book – What’s Your Problem? (link below). 

The problem we have when we’re trying to solve problems is that we get solution blindness – we get so emotionally attached to something that we can’t see the solution, like a sort of learned behaviour. One of the tips Thomas shares is looking for ‘bright spots’, i.e. was there a time when there wasn’t a problem? And can we use that to find our way to a solution? 

From how he got into problem-solving, identifying if we’re solving the right problem, the process that he uses to solve a problem, and why he brings in outside help the more important the problem is. This is an absolutely fascinating conversation with Thomas, we hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 

Recommended Podcasts

Standing Ovation

Standing Ovation, hosted by keynote speaker and emcee Jay Baer is where the very best public speakers reveal the secrets behind their greatest successes. In each episode, listeners hear a legendary on-stage story from a world-class speaker, and then hear Jay and his guest dissect and discuss that story. How are the best on-stage stories (some of them decades old) found, written, polished, and changed? When do they work best? When do they bomb? All that and a lot more insights on Standing Ovation: an intimate conversation where the best talk about their best. If you’re a professional speaker or an inspiring speaker, or just want to be a better communicator, you’ll learn a ton from each episode of Standing Ovation.

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Better, Simpler Strategy by Felix Oberholzer-Gee

Get to better, more effective strategy. In nearly every business segment and corner of the world economy, the most successful companies dramatically outperform their rivals. What is their secret? In Better, Simpler Strategy, Harvard Business School professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee shows how these companies achieve more by doing less. At a time when rapid technological change and global competition conspire to upend traditional ways of doing business, these companies pursue radically simplified strategies. At a time when many managers struggle not to drown in vast seas of projects and initiatives, these businesses follow simple rules that help them select the few ideas that truly make a difference. Better, Simpler Strategy provides readers with a simple tool, the value stick, which every organization can use to make its strategy more effective and easier to execute. Based on proven financial mechanics, the value stick helps executives decide where to focus their attention and how to deepen the competitive advantage of their business


Dig out your sales proposals and read them

You’re the CEO of a business.  How often do you read your sales proposals?  I bet, not often. They can tell you so much. Dig out the last half dozen that you wrote as a company. The ones that you won.  The ones that you didn’t. See if any of them are good or if they make you cringe.  Look at some of the big deals that you lost. Should you have bid for them? In my experience, there are often times where companies don’t put enough effort into a must-win deal. And other times where people put way too much effort into a deal they’ve got no chance of winning. If you have a must-win deal in your pipeline make sure that there’s a really clear process.  Everything should be behind winning it. And look at the documentation you send out. Are you proud of it?

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Quote of the week

“Strategy means making clear cut choices about how to compete. You cannot be everything to everybody.”
-Jack Welch

Dominic Monkhouse

Dominic offers business coaching and management development, strategy planning and organisational change, using tried and tested methods to launch your organisation onto an unparalleled growth trajectory. His programme is a function of his broad experience, his deep expertise and a proven process used by over 2,700 firms worldwide.

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