Operations vs Strategy: the dog wagging the tail or the tail wagging the dog
It is the age-old question many business owners face: how do you balance working ON the business versus IN the business?
What does that even mean?
- IN the business means handling the day to day operations and fires. It is the WHAT.
- ON the business means the structure, systems, and strategies. It is the HOW.
For example, determining how you onboard new clients is working on the business. Actually onboarding a new client is working in the business.
Sometimes you have to stop onboarding new clients in order to fix how you onboard them. This is basically strategy versus operations.
Who has time for that? If you do not do it though, you will have even less time to do it later when you are neck deep in it. When you get that busy, then the “tail wags the dog.”
Don’t get me wrong, operations is extremely important. Otherwise, you have all plans and no revenue. Nelson Mandela said, “Vision without action is just a dream.” You can build all the plans you want but if you take no action, you get nowhere. Operations is all about action.
“All thrust, no vector.”
This was a phrase we used when I was in the military. It referred to people who buzzed around everywhere trying to get things done--usually in order to impress their commander--but did not stop to think about what was actually important or how it could be done better. This is operations without strategy. You’re moving fast but with no direction.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
You might be thinking about this famous quote from Mike Tyson. Like, in the real world, how important are plans? The thing is, he did not go into matches completely unprepared. He spent years training on how to react and attack. The same goes for your business processes.
Proper planning prevents poor performance
When I was at the Air Force Academy, we jumped out of airplanes without ever having done a tandem jump. They trained a bunch of 18-year-olds how to safely free fall alone from an airplane in just four days.
We focused a lot on all the different ways a parachute can fail and how to react if it did. We practiced so much, it became muscle memory.
When you take the time to plan how you handle activities in your business, you will be better able to take action.
You have to balance between the two: strategy and operations. I see a lot of business owners with all thrust and no vector. In this age where “busy is a badge of honor,” not many people see this as a bad thing. But if you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor, this is a very bad thing.
I am sure you all have a friend who has “always wanted to start a business.” Maybe they even have an idea but they just never seem to pull the trigger. If all they do is plan, then they never really get off the ground.
Take the time to plan your HOW so that the WHAT doesn’t take over your life.