“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”
At the height of his career, Mike Tyson was the most dominating boxer the world had ever seen. Until he wasn’t. Eventually he got cocky, cut corners in his training and, in a championship fight against Buster Douglas, he got repeated punched in the mouth. After Douglas defeated him, Tyson was never quite the same. Potential opponents were no longer afraid of him and realised he could be beaten. He knew it too.
The interesting thing about Tyson’s mis-quote of Sun Tzu is that it suggests even he (renowned for not being the sharpest knife in the drawer intellectually) is that it suggests he’d taken part in a discussion on the important of planning and difference between Strategy and Tactics.
Another famous military quote (author unknown) is that the “perfect tactical plan is like a unicorn because anyone can tell you what it looks like, but no one has ever seen one”. Eisenhower built on this premise when he said 'in my experience plans are almost always useless, but planning is essential.' The upfront effort enables a more informed approach to be taken when your plan needs to adapt to the situation, rather than a reaction being forced upon you.
If your approach to 2020 planning will mainly comprise collecting tactical requests from stakeholders across the business, here are some thoughts on how to take a more informed approach in the absence of an overarching strategy:-
- Ask what impact each of these initiatives will have and then explore how much time and budget each is likely to consumer
- Is there an internal governance forum where a framework could be agreed for projects that won’t be supported? For example, where the contribution towards business objectives cannot be measured
- Are there agreed priorities or ‘brand jobs to be done’ for marketing? If so, would these initiatives contribute towards them?
- Are there priority segments? If so, would these initiatives engage them?
- If you’re unclear on the difference between Strategy and Tactics, here are a couple of quick ‘rules of thumb’:-
- They operate on different schedules - strategy is an occasional activity whereas tactical planning is ongoing
- Strategy focuses on the problem you’re trying to solve and the best possible direction of travel to solve it
- Strategy also focuses on who you’re talking to (your priority audiences) and what you need to say to influence them (how their needs compare to the product you’re selling)
- Tactics are much more focused on how you’ll engage your audience and also when & where
Colin Gray | Head of Marketing Strategy and Behavioural Economics
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