Sun Tzu & Business: Quote of the Week
Are you able to understand and share your strategy?
“All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”Sun Tzu, The Art of War
As a former military officer, understanding the difference between strategy and tactics was driven into our mindset early. To get a level set, here are some broad definitions:
Strategy is defined as : “The art and science of developing and using the political, economic, psychological, and armed forces of a nation, during peace and during war, to afford the maximum support to national policies, in order to increase the probabilities and favorable consequences of victory and to lessen the chances of defeat.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff Military Terms
Tactics is defined as: One, “The employment of units in combat”, and two, “The ordered arrangement and maneuver of units in relation to each other and/or to the enemy.”
Naval War College Review (1950,v3)
So, in my simple sales mind, strategy = big picture, tactics = small picture. Tactics are executed to achieve strategic goals and victory.
As business and/or sales leaders it is our job to define and build the tactical plan to contribute to and achieve broader organizational goals. That is obvious to most, but what is not obvious is how we educate our people on the broader strategy. Here are some quick thoughts on strategy and tactics from a sales leadership perspective, and the importance of translating the message for your teams.
Is your organization good or bad at communication? In any organization, communicating strategy can be hit or miss. I have been at companies where our strategy is crystal clear, and communicated constantly and through multiple mediums to the employee. Others, not so much. As a leader, its your responsibility to fill in the gaps and insure your teams see the strategic vision (albeit simplified), so when they execute their is a clear path to meets goals and play your part in organizational success.
What do they need to know (more importantly not know)? I have always seen my role as a leader as three things:
- A filter (Sh*t screen)
- A blockade remover
- An enabler
Removing the noise and providing focus to your team, especially when it comes to strategic goals, is paramount. Especially when working with sales people, most of which have the attention span of a gnat (me included). Narrow down and educate on the big picture, but focus on tactics for success. Hone and simplify your message. People work better when they understand where the ship is going, not just how to steer.
If you don’t understand and cannot share, you will fail – nothing is worse than a leader that cannot share the why, or responds with an “I don’t know” or “that’s beyond my pay grade.” If you don’t understand the strategy and the “why”, then dig in and figure it out, if you don’t chaos will ensue. I’ve been at companies that have changed direction with good intentions and strategic forethought, but the executive team never bothered to explain why down the chain. It led to utter and complete disarray in the field, and it could have been prevented with a simple reiteration of strategy and vision.
Does your tactical plan support the strategy? Say your company wants to all new customers to purchase cloud subscriptions, and move away from on-premise legacy sales. How will your tactical plan be crafted to match a cloud-based strategy? Comp plans, training, collateral, messaging, and more need to support your field team and arm them with what they need for success as individuals, as teams, and as part of the broader organization.
Reiterate, train and share. – I remember when I would train our team on a new offering, and sit in my office just after the meeting and listen. Out in the sales pit, the new training was used over and over on the phone. It worked, I thought. As the day rolled on, fewer and fewer calls included the new offering, and the next morning, it was like the training never happened, and the reps moved back to the old standard offering. Strategic goals and vision should be constantly shared. It gives meaning and a cohesive nature to all you do. Add a slide and review it at every sales meeting, discuss it, and make sure it is ingrained in your daily mantra.
Feedback is critical. – What’s working and what isn’t? When strategy is yelled from the window of an ivory tower, some may hear and some may not. In order for a strategy to be successful, there needs to be a two way feedback loop from the tacticians. Sharing successes and failures across teams is critical for organizational success, and the morale of your people who are on the front lines. Insure you provide feedback up and down the chain for minor adjustments and continued success.
Just a few thoughts…what are yours?