Operations is the day-to-day. The ebb and flow of new customers. A refinement of processes that may glean increased efficiencies across the organization. The price break for a customer who has been trusting you with their business for as long as you can remember. Operations requires a love of predictability. A never-ending stream of customers who will give you a try, yet their loyalty is like a thin layer of ice. They are one misstep or competitor discount away from choosing someone else for their next job.
Strategy is the long-term plan. Without a plan, you’ll shift course as often as the seasons change. Strategy is a laser-like focus on the competition and the macro and micro economic trends that will hold significant sway in your ability to win new business.
I’ve worked at firms where operational excellence was everything. Balanced scorecards were optimized and processes were refined. Strategy though had no seat at the table. A competitive response or a bold, new, well-reasoned direction was always a few quarters too late. Strategy’s presence was conspicuously absent when executives tried to piece together the company’s slow, painful slide into irrelevance.
Other firms during my career journey seemed intent on mastering the future, the 2-5 year road ahead. Road maps hung on walls. Strategic councils were formed to monitor trends. Strangely, this same firm, the one with strategic insight, disregarded the now. The processes were ever-changing. Communication and collaboration between departments was talked about, but never practiced. Amazingly, I felt secure about the future, but panicked about the day-to-day malaise.
It is a rare and special organization who marries operations and strategy. Operationally, they have teams consistently driven to eliminate slack and bring projects to life and products to market while not wasting a single resource. Strategically, they know where they are going, declaring an innovative approach to a changing world of fickle, ‘what have you done for me lately’ customers.
If you can find a place where strategy and operations are harmoniously dancing the dance of productivity and excellence, learn from the experience as much as you can as fast as you can.
Until next time,