Win More Deals By Disclosing Strategic Trade-offs

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Recently, a group of CEOs and I were discussing strategy: how to design it, execute it, and hold people accountable for learning from it so it can be improved as needed. While facilitating the session, it occurred to me that the focus was on justifying the strategies that they were using; I noted that one definition of strategy involved making tradeoffs between available resources.

For instance, time is often exchangeable with money. Rich people/companies can afford to outsource projects which poorer ones need to do themselves. We make these choices all the time, without sometimes realizing the tradeoffs made. For instance, a bootstrapped company may take longer to develop its product and require more innovative business development versus a competitor who gave away partial ownership in order to have greater financial resources for both types of development. Getting earlier to market with a powerful marketing/sales campaign creates a competitive advantage.

Sy Syms owned a retail clothing company that promoted itself with the tagline: “An Educated Consumer is Our Best Customer”. It let customers know that it would mark down the cost of products (e.g., dresses, suits, etc.) little by little as long as the product was still available. By engaging customers in the company strategy, it built a successful company.

When executives make presentations, there is a tendency to focus on the resulting business strategy that the company will use in the future. Rarely, is the audience brought into the “decision-making process” so they can understand why a given strategy was selected, and what the options are. By

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, How to Make Strategic Trade-offs, the three authors note that there is great value in sharing strategic trade offs, so that everyone understands just what the options were. Leaders need to present them internally to team members so they truly understand the range of implications. Similarly, smart leaders, such as the CEOs who want objective feedback and insights from mastermind groups and on-line networks (e.g., Vistage Worldwide) should discuss the strategic trade offs that are being considered before final decisions are made.

Similarly, presenters who present similar information to different groups, also should consider the strategic trade offs that are needed to be “audience-driven”. A public company CEO who succeeded two failing CEOs asked for help with a presentation. We discovered that a single, long presentation was designed to include information suitable for several audiences (e.g., investors, board of directors, plant managers and factory workers). We recommended focusing on the strategic message each audience needed to hear and dropping out from each presentation the additional distractive messages that watered down the core message. The results were clear, stock price and employee morale increased significantly, and he had a longer tenure than his predecessors!

So, before you pitch an idea, be clear about the strategic trade-offs that may be needed, and if so make them, with an ADAP focus: audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations.

How are you handling your strategic trade offs?  Share with us.