Strategic Initiatives

January is the time for making commitments, setting resolutions, designing a better you. Thinner, faster, smarter, stronger, kinder, healthier, richer. Reflection, dreaming, then planning. Trim all the things you don’t like, and where once there were gaping holes in your physique, psyche, pathology, you will soon have a whole wardrobe full of shining new capabilities!

Companies set resolutions too, dressed up as strategy. Strategic Initiatives they are often called – a concept which in the corporate lexicon has come to carry pretty much the same weight as the good old fashioned New Year Resolution.

Strategic, coming from strategy, meaning it’s somehow part of your plan. Initiative, from initiate, hinting you might be starting something. So does that make a Strategic Intiative :
a) something at the start of your plan;
b) the start of your planning; or
c) a brain fart in the key of B flat announcing to the world that you are planning to start your planning process to deliver the world’s greatest plan?

The Great Euphemism

Or is the phrase “Strategic Initiative” really just fancy words for “important stuff we need to get done”? The thing is, your staff and customers know what’s important because that’s where they see you spending your time, energy and $$$…not where you are paying lip service. So if you come up with a good idea for improving profit, making more sales, making your customers or staff happier, don’t just talk about it, or give it a fancy title, or plan it out; DO! Because even the world’s best PowerPoint presentation won’t effect change in your business – only you can do that!


Serve Us… please


Q: How do you know when your customers are happy?
A: We measure our service and we’re at 99.9%

Q: But how do you know if this makes your customers happy?
A: Well they must be. We answer 98.2% of queries within 24 hours.

Q: But does this mean they are happy?
A: Well sure it does. We measure ourselves, and we’re doing a pretty good job. The reality is that our customers don’t really know what they want. So we give them what they need.

Sometimes customers expect miracles. But most of the time they just want your product or service to be what you told them it would be. And that’s what they think you told them – not what you thought you said. They have expectations, built on what they understood you promised, their previous experience and what they see in the market place. This may not be be fair, but if they are expecting something that you are not delivering, the seed of dissatisfaction is sown.


The thing about service is that only the recipient can determine if they’ve received it or not. It doesn’t matter what your metrics say, how many cases you open and then close each day. If they’re not happy, they’re not happy. You can’t “metric” your way to good service and happy customers. Only your customers can tell you if they are happy.

At some point in time, your current customers voted for you, and handed you the privilege of servicing them. They were wooed, promised, convinced, persuaded. Perhaps they even piloted your service, and found that it tasted good. Sooner or later, they will vote again, with their feet. When the worm of public opinion starts to turn, and crowd behavior takes over, you’ll be left with a great service, meeting all of your internal metrics, that no-one wants to buy.


Just tell the customer…

Bizarrely, there are staff that still seem to think customers care about nonsensical internal processes. That the customer should be grateful that we are to entertain their business.

Just tell the customer… That’s not how we do it, or perhaps, that’s not when we do it.

It may be something as simple as a variation to a contract, a slight change in a required solution or even a customer’s timeline, that unleashes the wrath of the back office. It is at this point that we are told just how important a process/person actually is and more likely this real pearl of wisdom… this is how you should manage the customer through this sale (really?)

In most businesses we have these people, the first to point out how Sales and Marketing just don’t perform or how the customer just doesn’t get it, yet are the first to go out of their way to scupper any new business opportunity before its even begun. Its almost as though each new customer is really just another load of hard work, best dealt with in the adversarial way their inconvenience deserves.

It is in these businesses too, that we see a truly remarkable Sales behaviour come about. The one where after hitting their heads on internal brick walls repeatedly, the seasoned sales pros, hightail it out of there…

Oddly, this is usually followed by a similar customer behaviour, but does the back office ever actually understand this?

Inaction through non-consensus

Is it just me or has there been a really big change in general business culture over the last ten years..?

I seem to recall businesses having people that were empowered to make decisions, accountable for those decisions and their consequences – good or bad – and generally expected to make hard decisions. But no more, it seems.

Seldom do I now come into a business that is not thick with underlying politics of non-ownership, non-accountability and an army of Teflon soldiers. All just waiting to voice their opinions, to have a say, but when it comes to someone actually making the decision… or worse, actually being accountable for it… (the sound of crickets)

What happened to those business leaders, the decision-makers?

So it seems that many (if not most) business decisions are being made by a form of mutual non-consensus, where everyone seems to avoid making any specific decision and effectively watching to see what happens on its own – a kind of group thinking and group safety position.

Consensus by agreed non-consensus or I guess you could call it – decision by group non-consensus, where a decision is made through the lack of actually making a clear decision, allowing the decision made to be a decision left to fate. Let’s all look the other way and hope that someone actually takes control, sometime.

Then we wonder why so often we see businesses doing things that just don’t seem to make any sense at all, perhaps cost the business dearly or even step well over any ethical lines – yet, how often do we see any real accountability result from that?

It goes beyond business

I can only assume the same practice of inaction persists in many of our government structures?

Is it too much to hope that someone must be steering these massive supertankers, or is that just me being far too hopeful..?