Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Your Day to Day is Killing Your Tomorrow

Strategy / Culture

Don’t let the urgent crowd out the important.

It’ a cliché, I know, but it’ a cliché for a reason. It carries with it a sentiment we all know to be true. Living in the day to day precludes our ability to see far enough into the future to make thoughtful decisions early, so we can create our future rather than react to it.

But being mired in the details of day to day operations is a curse we all suffer from. I work with brands who are often reticent to extract themselves from the project they are involved in. Albeit they are firm believers that the project at hand is transformational in nature and has the opportunity to change their business, operationally, market wise, or both. An interesting dichotomy to witness.

So why is it so difficult to quarter off time to step away from the operational nature of getting work done, to focus and ideate on how the business should plan - not for 12 months from now - but 24, 36, 48 months from now?

The short answer is often “because it is hard”, or there isn’t enough time or perhaps you are in a critical moment of the business which can’t afford to lose your attention.

There is a compounding challenge many organizations have, which is access to data, or perhaps the right data. When it comes to day to day data many companies are rich, but don’t capitalize on that wealth in a meaningful way. However, the data I’m referencing is market data, and not just about their own industry but about the adjacent industries they work with.

Take Ron Johnson, formerly of JC Penny, who believed the transformation of his company hinged on store design and pricing as a mechanism for attracting younger customers. Like any strategy, there are trade offs. With the focus on pricing and aesthetics, JC Penny ignored foundational elements of digital commerce and the online/offline experience - both of which also play to the same audience with an assumed similar outcome - gain younger customers who will stay with you for years to come.

Disruption is a buzzword for ‘not paying attention to your business the way you should.’ It’s the third move from checkmate for many, and the prime variable is whether the leadership of a company can remove itself from its operational mindset to prepare the business for what is coming, straight on or on the flank.

So what do we need to do to offset the trend of being mired in the weeds of your business? A few things come to mind, not all of them easy, in fact many of them hard. But by disciplining ourselves we better our companies and the people who make them up. Because in addition to our shared desire to make our organizations successful, our employees are our tribe whose tying their future to ours—we owe it to them.

  • Delegate and communicate what accountability looks like. If you don’t feel like you can be removed from email threads, you right. And that’s a problem.
  • Share with managers your way of thinking, not just tasks, so there is alignment on how decisions will be made in your absence
  • Prepare for and structure an offsite where market and industry trends and your business positioning are the main subjects - plan it in the future, hold to it.
  • Be honest about the data of your organization, volume doesn’t equate to value. 
  • Bring people together, in person, more often. Strategy is easier to arrive at with trust and familiarity.

Don’t be discouraged if your first few attempts to focus on the important fail. It’s a learned behavior and sentiment that will take time. The truth is, if your culture doesn’t already put a premium on strategy and planning some of these activities and conversations will feel like ‘we’re not really working’ - much in the same way reading a book feels like slacking, but having 30 people on a conference call isn’t given a second thought. 

Learn more about how Rightpoint can help you bring strategy and change to your organization.

Jason Fields is the SVP & Managing Director, Los Angeles, at Rightpoint. Follow Jason on Twitter and LinkedIn.