What is worse than failing? One answer is, “Never trying and never knowing.” That is even worse than failure, as you will one day sit back, reflect, and wonder, “What if?” You may even regret it and say, “If I had it to do all over again, I would have given it a shot.” The lesson here is to avoid making a decision for the wrong reasons, chief among them being the fear of failure.
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Those were Aristotle’s comments concerning criticism. You can just as easily substitute the word “failure” for “criticism,” as the only way you will avoid failure is to do nothing.
One needs to be prepared to accept that failure is part of life. You are not along in this regard and are not being singled out by forces intent on wreaking havoc. If you are living your life based on a fear of failure, you are doing yourself a great disservice.
There is no way to avoid failure; life is a series of wins and losses, ups and downs. However, steps can be taken to reduce the failures and mitigate the impact. You can emerge stronger, wiser, and better equipped for the next challenge if you maintain the right mind-set and take the right approach.
An important part of dealing with failure is to accept failure for what it is, learn from it, adapt, and grow. As Winston Churchill so eloquently stated “Success is the ability to move from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
You will assuredly be faced with adversity and experience failure, both professionally and personally. How one responds to these circumstances not only reveals character but builds character. When faced with difficult circumstances, there are a number of things that you can do to weather the storm. However, first you need to be cognizant of the ten reasons for failure, which I will address in my next blog.
Goals are achieved with commitment – not just interest – in doing something. Goals require unyielding resolve, self-control, and passionate belief in your vision. You must be 100 per cent committed, otherwise you will sabotage yourself along the way.
Once you commit, you are accountable to yourself. Consider this a promise to yourself, something that cannot be broken. There will be others affected by what you do. Share your goals and plan with them, since this imbues a greater sense of accountability. These individuals should be supportive and trustworthy, avoid the doom-and-gloomers.
Be clear on what you want to do and what is needed to achieve your goals. If you do not have the requisite skills or tools to reach your goals, gain an understanding of what you need to do to acquire them. Anticipate the obstacles you may encounter and how you will deal with them. This makes you better prepared and less likely to be derailed. You cannot anticipate everything. There will be surprises so condition yourself to find a way around it. Recognize the effort and sacrifices you will have to make, understanding that nothing worthwhile comes easy, and anything that comes easily is usually not long lasting.
In the military and in sports, one of the common denominators is a routine or process associated with everything that is done. These are actions and processes in place that all serve to reinforce the plans to reach an ultimate goal. You should also adopt a regimen with the right habits that all serve to reinforce the plan to reach your ultimate goal. This training and routine instill the right mind-set to optimize your prospects since they are interconnected. Train your mind and the body will follow since it is your mind-set above all, that provides the will and the shoulders of Atlas for the heavy lifting.
The commitment you are making takes time and effort. Be cognizant of those activities and demands that divert you from your plan. Keep distractions to a minimum, understanding that you will have to learn to say “No” as there is nothing more valuable than your time. When you encounter an obstacle, instead of saying “I don’t know what to do,” say “I will figure this out”. Be open minded and understand that oftentimes it is not having the answer but knowing where to find it that will provide the solution.
As you commit to yourself, keep the following in mind, and you will get there.
1. Commit fully – no half measures.
2. Be clear and define what you want to do.
3. Adopt a routine; establish good habits; be disciplined.
4. Put in the time for training and conditioning.
5. Be realistic, resourceful, and resilient.
Strategy and implementation are inextricably linked. It is important to put together a plan on how the strategy will be implemented, as a poorly implemented strategy will compromise the results. The biggest mistakes a company makes when implementing a strategy are summarized below. These mistakes are listed in no particular order, as any one of them can be crippling to the business, with a combination of them proving fatal.
1. Lack of a coherent strategy – The offering and subsequent strategy must have a value proposition differentiating it from the competition. Once the decision is reached on the strategy, a plan needs to be defined and communicated within the organization with everyone’s interests and activities aligned.
2. Ignoring the Human Factor – A company can have the best strategy in the business, but without the right people, properly trained and incentivized, it will never realize its full potential. In today’s environment, with differences between companies and competitors often blurred, the human side of the equation is more important than ever.
3. Improper Communication – The plan should be conveyed in a clear and crisp manner. The employees should understand the larger goals of the company and the specific goals applicable to them, with a clear and unequivocal understanding of their role in achieving goals and the priority of these goals.
4. Lack of Accountability – Every activity associated with the plan must have someone accountable for completion of the task. Those responsible should be empowered in order to imbue ownership and accountability, with a system in place to ascertain goal status and completion. If no one owns it, no one is accountable.
5. Lack of Metrics – A plan must have a set of milestones or deadlines. These milestones need to be specific, with clear accountability. It is the accomplishment of these milestones that determines the success of a project and a business.
6. Lack of Review – A process must be in place to determine progress toward completion. This is accomplished through a series of reviews, the frequency of which is determined by the scope and time frame of the plan. By monitoring progress and assessing progress towards the plan the necessary adjustments can be made in a timely manner.
7. Incentives Not Aligned – Incentives should drive individual performance to achieve the success of the plan. These incentives should be objective versus subjective. The plan should include incentives for both short-term and long-term goals, all of which are aligned so that individual or divisional rewards cannot be realized at the expense of the company.
8. Poor Intelligence or Data – It is incumbent upon leadership to ensure they have as much valid data as possible when making a decision. When assessing data or input, one needs to be measured in drawing conclusions and strive to validate the data as much as possible. Different people may characterize situations in different ways due to an inherent or organizational bias.
9. Strategy Conflicts with Finance – A strategy with incentive plans not properly aligned could result in internecine conflict. As an example, if a Divisional Plan is weighted more towards capturing market share while the overarching emphasis on a Corporate Level is profit, you will have contrarian views on which tactics to pursue.
10. Lack of Simplicity – As a company grows, takes on more offerings, adds personnel, creates new positions, and implements systems to manage growth, an unintended consequence is that business processes become more complicated. Advances in technology, designed to make things simpler, often add another layer of complexity with information transmitted to a host of individuals which can exacerbate the decision-making process. Review all processes, offerings, approvals, and communications with the intent to simplify and streamline as much as practical.
The essence of any company strategy is how the company’s offerings compare to the competition, how to gain an edge, and how to sustain this edge or difference. There are three basic types of strategy that a company can implement.
Cost – This strategy, which could also be called a cost/leadership strategy, is implemented when the company competes on the basis of the price of their offerings. A company must be careful to ensure that as price pressures come to bear, cost-reduction initiatives do not result in a decline in performance.
Differentiation – This strategy is implemented when a company offers something which is unique, oftentimes proprietary or patented, to distinguish it from the competition. The offering could also be value based, such as offering a distinct set of services. When the customer sees this offering as something that offers value, it becomes a competitive advantage and can result in a company being able to command a premium price. When pursuing a strategy of differentiation, a company must be in close contact with the customer to ensure what is offered continues to be unique and is of value to the customer.
Niche – With this strategy, a company will develop a distinct product or approach for a defined segment or group of customers versus going after the entire market. When deciding on this strategy, the size of the segment, the growth rate, and number of competitors are key considerations. With this strategy, a company must be wary of new market entrants, especially from companies in related markets that are mature or declining, as these larger entities seek business elsewhere and may have economies of scale.
Having a strategy is one thing, successfully implementing it is another. The next blog will address the mistakes or shortfalls companies make when failing to properly implement their strategy.