Watching the coverage of the political conventions and presidential campaigns, I'm struck by the duality of the messages. Not the stark difference between the candidates' proposals, or that the two parties can look at the same fact and derive divergent meaning. But by the idea that even as they acknowledge there are no simple solutions, they both propose what often seems like, well, very simplistic solutions.
We have a similar issue in business, in leading change.
Part of the problem with electioneering and with leading change is that it depends on marketing. That is, to make the sale, to lead, you must hone your message to its simplest form so it's easily and quickly understood by the largest percentage of your target audience: the ubiquitous elevator speech.
Fail at the pitch, and you risk losing the opportunity to launch that new line of business or to implement the critical growth initiative.
But even as we deliver the slogans that sell our strategy, we must remember the work that is done before and after the pitch. We can’t succumb to believing the solution is the same as the sales pitch.
Some of you are rolling your eyes, slapping your foreheads and saying, "duh." But it happens.
Take my favorite example, the quality revolution. Big, important books, the business best-sellers of their time, launched U.S. business’s focus on quality. These tomes provided detail and data on a complex interaction of the ideas, strategies, tactics and behaviors behind the new thinking and approach. Yet so many business leaders reduced the complexity to … you remember: quality circles.
Living through the experience, I realized then that many business leaders who were implementing quality initiatives had neither taken the time to truly understand the nuances of TQM—whether its planning or execution—nor to tailor the new strategy to suit their company’s organization and culture. They had grasped at implementing only the one, most easily communicated aspect of the new strategy.
At IW we search for, celebrate and share the many paths business executives take to lead their businesses to greater competitiveness and profitability. In this issue, you'll find a company that finds vertical integration a successful cost-reduction strategy; a company that embraced sustainability as a strategy before it became a buzzword; and a company whose success is credited to a unique "four-pillar" strategy. Each of these stories describe CEOs who have thoughtfully adapted well-known strategies to their companies’ unique competitive situation—the only route to lasting success.
In difficult times, it can be tempting to mistake the slogan as the solution, to implement the easy solution—even when we know one doesn’t exist.
It’s a lesson IW works to help our readers never forget.