Strategy Is As Much About What You Will NOT Do As What You Will

Strategy is as much about what you will NOT do as what you will.  

Strategies for improving operations typically are constrained by resources, making choices inevitable. Operations that have learned how to improve understand what they will not do equally as well as what they will do.

What You Will Do

Improvement requires a careful plan for achieving well-defined goals. This plan or strategy is defined in terms of approach and method, but it eventually will have to be executed through specific actions. Those actions will require resources, and those resources will be limited.

The conversation about a strategy rarely lacks ideas on what needs to be done. Leaders and stakeholders at every level can typically rattle off several indispensable changes.  The challenge is selecting the changes that will lead to the greatest business impact. (A word of advice—the impact may be as simple as creating a win and building momentum.)

The path toward the critical few ideas begins with the business case, which is a detailed analysis of observed data about the operation. Looking at your safety, quality, delivery, and cost measurements compared to your customer value propositions sets the stage for choosing an approach to improvement. Data you collect from observation of your current conditions lead to the specific actions.

The trick is filtering those actions through your lens of available resources. Time, money, people, and even sheer willpower are in limited supply. An approach that fails to recognize the constraint is designed to fail.

What You Will Not Do

How can an organization decide to forgo what several see as indispensable? Emotions take over, and everything seems critical. So how do you find the critical few?

First, understand that sequence matters. A colleague used to say that there are things you have to do before you do what you want to do. For example, you may need to reduce the number of defects found in inspection before you can begin to flow an assembly line. A current condition study with first-hand observation brings these issues to light.

Next, clearly define your objective. Again, the path toward the critical few begins with data about the business. When the organization agrees on the overall path for the business, it now has a filter. Will the approach you select move you closer to your overall goal? Simply said, does this line up with your overall strategy?

Finally, laying out the sequence of activity helps overcome emotion and concern about what is indispensable. Everyone can see that while a desired approach may not be addressed right now, it will be in the future.

Helping your organization understand what it will not do will help align and focus your team around your strategy. Be specific about the sequence of actions so ideas that are good but require additional preparation still have a home.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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