While the New Year is still fresh and we are still ruminating on how we grow our skills and make a greater impact, I have another resolution for you. It follows logically from a focus on winning and a commitment to lead with passion. It is about getting off the bench and getting into the game.
One of the best pieces of feedback -really push back- I’ve gotten in my career came many years ago from a general manager during a war game.
Typical of these events, once the group got to the “problem solving” stage, the juices started to flow. Great ideas …or at least I thought they were great… started to fill the flip-charts. I thought we were going great. Then the boss dropped the bomb!
“This is all very easy for you to say, except I have no way to take these ideas to customers. We can’t just wave a wand and have them do what we want, even if we spend a lot more money.”
Ugh! Talk about a wet blanket.
In reality, this manager was making a plea for help. Specifically, he wanted insights and ideas that he could use to negotiate the market battle as it was being fought that very day. Big, earth-altering ideas were of little help in getting his new item on the shelf next quarter or winning the next contract cycle.
Too often this is the problem with intelligence analysis and facilitated events. Too many good ideas with little or no practicability: You can’t fix selling windows … You can’t change industry driven trade terms … You can’t radically alter supply chains … You can’t change the reach of chosen marketing vehicles, etc., etc.
In the real world, moving heaven and earth does prove to be a lot more difficult than just saying so.
So here’s the challenge and resolution. This year, concentrate on how to take your ideas and insights directly to the enemy!
This means putting your recommendations and ideas through a much tighter filter. They must pass this test: How can the business take them to the street?
Stop lamenting or blaming others for the intractability of reality. Instead, spend time down at the level of action. Work to understand the degree of maneuverability and flexibility that exists at the transaction level of your business:
How and when would customers consider breaking existing contracts? What rules govern supply-chain changeovers? How can promotional windows be altered? What flexibility exists in trade terms? Who are potential allies and enemies among distributors, agents, suppliers or other important third parties? What product or service benefits are going unheralded or unrecognized by key customers? Etc., etc.
The questions are endless and unique to different businesses. But this is where the game moves. If you can outsmart competitors at this level, then intelligence can truly move the needle on revenue and market share.
So, spend more time at ground level and take it to the street!
THIS POST FIRST APPEARED JANUARY 9, 2014