“Don’t wait until you have a crisis to think strategically.”
The public administration select committee has said that David Cameron doesn’t have a strategy for the country. Consequently, it’s no wonder we have had so many controversies and embarrassments recently. The government has been accused of incompetence over the 50p top rate of tax, VAT on pasties, caravans and historic building repair, granny tax, the Qatada deportation, the fire strike and tax avoidance.
I disagree, a bit. I think the government does have a strategy albeit a pretty cynical one. It’s the same one as all other governments before it. Its strategy is simply to do whatever it has to do to stay in power. Ideally, there is some sort of political justification for actions but not always as principles are dispensable luxuries to most politicians.
Beyond this instinct for survival, it is true that no political party has had a sensible, coherent and value-creating strategy for the country since Margaret Thatcher and I guess that is really what the committee is getting at. Like corporate managers politicians are seriously short-term when it comes to action. They are though mostly pretty smart folk and along with their civil servants do engage in longer term posturing from time to time.
David Cameron believes that he simply doesn’t have the luxury of a longer term strategy, just like most business managers, because a longer term strategy often involves investment of one sort or another and that is not normally a vote winner. Those that do want to think more strategically often find it hard to develop a coherent strategy because they don’t really know how to go about it. In fact, many would be hard pushed to tell you what a strategy is, let alone what a good strategy might be for their business.
I have my own definition of strategy: consistent behaviour that makes the most of what you have. The word “consistent” implies a longer term view. The words “making the most of “that you actually know what a good business might look like, and “what you have” that you are able to identity and leverage the things that make you different and give you market advantage. Sadly, very few people can do this.
If you want to make a lot of money you not only need a strategy but you need to know how to manage it as your business evolves. The US, Japan and even this country have had something approaching my more demanding definition of a strategy in the past, often preceding periods of great political and economic success. They were often formed in response to a crisis. Perhaps it is only when a country is facing such a threat that it is able to respond strategically. The rest of the time we just get a muddle of confused tactical activity, like we are seeing now.
Many businesses don’t think strategically until they also reach a crisis point, but for most it is too late. Commercial organisations do not have the resilience of countries to survive during these more difficult periods so it also always best to clarify strategy when the going is good.
Do you know what your strategy is? If not, you may need some help to sort it out. If your business is going well at the moment, act now and don’t make the common mistake of just leaving it too late.