The Failed Strategy
Most of the people who persist in the wilderness leave nothing behind but bleached hones.
When a strategy or an action doesn’t seem to be working, the rule is, “If at first you don’t succeed, try once more. Then do something else.” The first time around, a new strategy very often doesn’t work. Then one must sit down and ask what has been learned. Maybe the service isn’t quite right. Try to improve it, to change it, and make another major effort. Maybe, though I am reluctant to encourage this, you might make a third effort. After that, go to work where the results are. There is only so much time and so many resources, and there is so much work to be done.
There are exceptions. You can see some great achievements where people labored in the wilderness for twenty-five years. But these examples are very rare. Most of the people who persist in the wilderness leave nothing behind but bleached bones. There are also true believers who are dedicated to a cause where success, failure, and results are irrelevant, and we need such people. They are our conscience. But very few of them achieve. Maybe their rewards are in Heaven. But that’s not sure either. “There is no joy in Heaven over empty churches,” Saint Augustine wrote sixteen hundred years ago to one of his monks who busily built churches all over the desert. So, if you have no results, try a second time. Then look at it carefully and move on to something else.
Strategic planning deals with futurity of present decisions.
Traditional planning asks: “What is most likely to happen?” Planning for uncertainty asks, instead: “What has already happened that will create the future?
Strategic planning is not a box of tricks, a bundle of techniques. It is analytical thinking and commitment of resources to action. It is the continuous process of making present entrepreneurial decisions systematically and with the greatest knowledge of their futurity, organizing systematically the efforts needed to carry out these decisions, and measuring the results of these decisions against the expectations through organized, systematic feed-back. The question that faces the strategic decision-maker is not what his organization should do tomorrow. It is: “What do we have to do today to be ready for an uncertain tomorrow?” The question is not what will happen in the future. It is” “What futurity do we have to build into our present thinking and doing, what time spans do we have to consider, and how do we use this information to make a rational decision now?”
In looking for a husband for your daughter, says an old proverb, don’t ask: “Who’ll make the best husband for her?” Ask instead: “For which kind of a man would she make a good wife?”
Divestment is a “marketing” rather than a “selling” problem. The question is not: “What do we want to sell and for how much?” It is: “For whom is this venture ‘value’ and under what conditions?” The salient point if finding the potential buyer for whom what is misfit to the seller is a perfect, the buyer to whom the venture to be sold offers the best opportunity or solves the worst problem. This is then also the buyer who will pay the most.
A major printing company decided that a mass-circulation magazine it owned was at best a partial fit and should be sold. The magazine had been bought originally to hold its printing contract. They asked, “What is value to a magazine publishing company?” If it is a growing magazine company,” they answered, “its greatest need is cash. For a growing magazine requires heavy cash investments in building circulation for several years. “How can we supply this need of the potential buyer to our own advantage?” was the next question. And the answer was, “By giving him ninety days rather than the customary thirty days to pay his print and paper bill to our printing plants.” The printing company then rapidly found a publishing group that filled their requirements.
The work of the Manager
Managers can improve their performance by improving their performance of these constituent activities.
There are five basic operations in the work of the manager.
- Managers, in the first place, set objectives. They determine what the objectives should be. They determine what the goals in each area of objectives should be. They decide what to be done to reach these objectives. They make the objectives effective by communicating them to the people whose performance is needed to attain them.
- Second, managers organize. They analyze the activities, decisions and relations needed. They classify the work. They divide it into manageable activities and further divide the activities into manageable jobs. They group these units and jobs into an organization structure. They select people for the management of these units and for the jobs to be done.
- Next, managers motivate and communicate. They make a team out of the people who are responsible for various jobs.
- The fourth basic element in the work of the manager is measurement. The manager establishes yardsticks – and few factors are as important to the performance of the organization and of every person in it.
- Finally, managers develop people, including themselves.