Be Careful What You Call It ...

Exploring aspects of conversation, both personal and professional

Be Careful What You Call It…


As someone who spends a lot my time assisting clients with verbal and non-verbal communication it often intrigues me how choice of vocabulary or labelling can significantly impact how we then choose to interpret or understand things. How just ‘tweaking’ the words we use can sometimes have a significant impact on what might then be achieved.

As part of the Scaling Up Methodology, that I now support my clients with, we spend a great deal of time working on the ‘One-Page Strategic Planning’ document. Whether in analogue or digital format it becomes a go-to source for aligning a whole range of thinking around where and how the business will scale. Yet here is the thing, as a Certified Scaling Up Coach, it is not the ‘strategy planning’ per se that is impactful, it is more the ’strategy thinking’. Where the magic often happens is when during a conversation we start thinking in different ways as to what the strategy should be to differentiate ourselves from the competition. The ‘planning’ piece then becomes how we intend to execute the strategy. So maybe we should get into the habit of referring to;

Strategy Thinking and Execution Planning

A very small adjustment that has the potential for a major impact.

Different Processes

Jim Collins provides a really fine perspective on this in his classic book Good to Great. Based on some serious research he concludes that for companies to move from being average performers in their industry to scaling up ones with more than 3 times industry levels requires them to go through three distinct phases:

  1. 1.Build a team of disciplined people
  2. 2.Have that team engage in disciplined strategy thinking, and finally
  3. 3.Execute through disciplined planning and action

The strategic thinking process through to execution planning process has a similar pathway.

You need to be disciplined in putting together the right team to do your strategic thinking as well as the right team to do your execution planning.Sure, some people may be in both but essentially the number of people and skill levels involved are different.Strategic thinking tends to be more intuitive. As Michael Porter states it needs to involve “the creation of a unique & valuable position, involving a different set of activities.” Without it you may end up simply executing a mess.Then once the core strategy thinking has been nailed, the execution planning can commence in earnest. It becomes a much more systematic, sequential, and effective process.

Strategic Thinking

A very practical, and disciplined, way to effect strategic thinking is what Jim Collins refers to as “The Council”.A sub-set of the senior management team, say about 4 or 5 executives, that would normally include people like; the CEO, co-founders, a key product/service developer, head of sales and/or marketing. The group absolutely need to embody trust, all willing and able to say it as they see it and have a real interest in seeing their company grow and an interest in discussing and exploring the bigger strategic issues facing their company.

Ideally “The Council” would meet weekly for an hour or two and all actively seek employee and customer feedback and insights directly to fuel their catch-ups to discuss a few critical strategic questions. Co-incidentally my last post made reference to our 7 Strata Strategy framework and this can provide a great source for discussion points – differentiating activities, what ‘sandbox’ do you plan to play in etc.

Ultimately, “The Council” provides ideas, opinions, experience, insights to the CEO such that they might choose a strategy that takes their company to places they never thought possible or had even dreamed of. More specifically, it also clarifies the handful of priorities the team needs to be focused on for the next 12 months to be aligned with the strategic focus of the business.

Execution Planning

Whilst “The Council” is doing its iterative strategic thinking, the rest of the company needs to actively focus and deliver on the most important priorities that will move the company forward the next 3 to 12 months. This execution planning is what Shannon Susko, author of “3HAG WAY: The Strategic Execution System that ensures your strategy is not a Wild-Ass-Guess!” would refer to as “swim lanes”.Have you planned out what you will execute on quarter by quarter to achieve your 3HAG (Three Year Highly Achievable Goal)?Are those “swim lanes” developing how the company will differentiate itself from its competitors in the years to come? Topic for a future post but it is key to execution planning aligning everyone so that they know the part that they play and feel that they are on and part of the team.

There are many more ‘layers’ to successful execution of a scaling up strategy but an important first step is to recognise that it requires two distinctly different teams and approaches to strategically think whilst planning to execute. Choose your approach wisely and ‘be careful what you call it ….’




If you are interested in further exploring how to leverage simple, actionable, and practical tools to help you Scale Up why not come along to the Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop we are running in conjunction with our partner SWAAB on Tuesday 19th, March, 2019. Would highly recommend bringing along members of the Leadership Team to work together on your plan to Scale Up.

Watch One Minute Video More information Get tickets


Alternatively, if you would just like to learn a little more about Scaling Up - grab yourself a copy of the "Quick Start Guide".


The 7 Strata Strategy Worksheet


If you would just like to get some thought provokers for your "Council" and their strategic thinking - grab yourself a copy of the "Strategy: 7 Strata" Worksheet.




Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make it...and Why the Rest Don't

Verne Harnish

3HAG WAY: The Strategic Execution System that ensures your strategy is not a Wild-Ass-Guess!

Shannon Susko

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't

Jim Collins




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