Strategic thinking means doing the right things – not just doing things right

“We’re all good cops. Even the bad ones are good cops.”

This is a line taken off an episode of Law and Order (Season 1) and it summarizes what I’d like to discuss in this article – doing the right things versus doing things right. The bad cops were good at what they were doing, they just did the wrong things.

I know a lot has been discussed about this topic yet it still seems quite prevalent.

Case in point: some time back, I was working with a small local company that had two business units: website design and photography. One can certainly see how both services fitted with each other. The heads of each business unit were school mates, and they came together on an initial project, each having their own specialised skill. Seeing how well they worked together on that first project, they formed a company. The problem was, they were both positioned in the market rather distinctly. Instead of identifying a market segment that would benefit from having an integrated solution that the two of them could provide together, they both went their separate ways looking for clients on their own and delivering the service individually.

While they were relatively successful in their own right, the company never really made it big. Customers were not shared; services were not bundled; costs were not minimised. It really was two separate companies working under one roof. Today, the company is no more.

What happened? Both of the partners were doing things right. They set up shop; they got their camera and computer systems; they got their photo studio; they got their clients and they got their staff. What they didn't have was a strategy of maximising their individual strengths for a collective good, to conquer that market segment and to grow from there.

Hence, they failed because they were not doing the right thing.

This is a sad story that seems to repeat itself in all corners of the economy. It affects everyone regardless of education level, work experience or gender. It especially hits when we are dealing with issues that are emotionally charged. These will cloud our judgement and lead us down a path of poor decisions, unless we apply critical, strategic thinking.

So, whenever you are faced with a major decision to make, ensure that you are doing the right things by identifying your strategic intent – and you do that by asking the 5 Whys.

Written by Ian Dyason

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