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To navigate life and any aspect of such, from a morning commute, to owning a home, to raising children, to funding an education, to securing a job and advancing your career, a game plan is required. Those game plans are strategies. When an aspiration fails, a simple root cause analysis will typically discover the absence of a strategy, of a flawed strategy, or the failure to execute the strategy. As a professor of strategy at a major university of course I am biased. However, one need only look at the numerous one time luminaries in our industry that are no more. As Lee Bolman, author and consultant offered “A vision without strategy remains an illusion.”
Someone recently pointed out to President Trump that he did not win the popular vote to which he replied: “That is not the criteria for electing the President, and if it was, I would still be your President.” Adore him, tolerate him, or hate him, he understands strategy. His grade on style points may be falling short, but he does not miss the forest for the trees. I suspect even his antics are pre-planned strategic distractions. In setting a goal, one must identify what is required to achieve such, then strategize to those requirements for success.
In the Chicago suburbs in which I live, I attended one of those local candidate forums. It was either the library board, city council, liquor commission or whatever. The failed candidate in a two party race lost by a mere 24 votes. He said: “if I only captured 25 more votes, I’m in.” I pointed out that he actually needed to convert only 13 of those votes to which he expressed confusion thus confirming he wouldn’t be my candidate for anything. Ya gotta know math and ya gotta understand strategy.
Golfers know you don’t always hit your furthest shot, for at times you’ll want a full wedge in. Billiard players know where to leave the cue ball for the next shot.
Any leader working in an organization over 25 years of age understands strategy as your organization has strategized and navigated at least one generational change. In addition, they have no doubt survived one or more of those most critical and vulnerable points of inflection. Your future, to exist, must be premeditated. You understand the caution of Coach Vince Lombardi: “Hope is not a strategy.” I share this as the foundation of my amazement that there are 24 Democratic candidates for President of the United States. Both CNN and Fox news said the winner of the most recent Democratic debate was Trump. Where is the DNC strategy? Come on, 24 candidates renders this a circus analogous to the elementary student body right…no, no…student body left…no, no…student body right again! With so many factions forming, the party gets divided and coalitions become impossible to form. It is a scorched earth approach which typically concludes with no one left standing. Whoever “won” the previous debate, in effect, becomes a target for all the other candidates. That proverbial cast of thousands elevates to attack, attack, attack! Things are said to one another that will make it nearly impossible to even form running mates from any two of them. Some of the positions, while they make great sound bites and appeal to the masses, stop well short of including how we might actually pay for the promise. In a nation with $22 trillion in debt, how does everyone get free medical and free college education? How about the proposal (Bernie Sanders) to erase all $1.5 trillion in student loans! Dare I ask how? Of course, the ever increasing tax burden on our businesses and the job creators seems to be the preferred choice of the ill-informed. I would remind them of an age old caution: never confuse opinion as fact. Also, what do you do for the students that have actually repaid their student loans? Do we not need to make them whole? After all, would that not be discrimination against the responsible? Oh wait, the “responsible” are not a protected class.
Yes at times you can pull things back, hit the reset, and make peace. However, if one goes too far, there is no coming back. When there are no boundaries people, as well as, political parties, learn quickly that words have consequences and at times lasting consequences. The old guard is reluctant to cede power. The new guard to a great extent is with limited experience and ill-informed. Yet, we have to endure the diatribe of both parties for the next…what seems like forever!
While such unfolds, we in industry will continue to create jobs, make payroll, pay taxes, and contribute to commerce. As time evolves, organizations will continue to encounter periodic points of inflection where they must revisit their business model and strategize for the future. Those that can’t or won’t become just another attrition statistic. When one looks at our industry you find mature companies that have time and again successfully navigated those major points of inflection. Not only have we navigated those POI’s and generational transitions, we have done so in a most cyclical industry with the additional challenges of such. I guess when I look for good strategy, I like us! When I look to the future, I still like us! A mature industry, with mature companies, that somehow always find a way to reinvent themselves. It takes great leadership to execute strategy and our industry is flush with great leaders. By all means, whatever the odds, please continue as our nation and economy need you.
“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” — Mark Twain