An associate of mine once told me that when he was in the military, they used to wryly quote this old saying when speaking after the different vendors had come and made their pitches:
“Amateurs study tactics, armchair generals study strategy, but professionals study logistics.”
This stuck with me and made me think about how we had been approaching solving some of our large-scale transformation projects.
As consultants, we come into companies through the technology side door, usually to fix some broken things, or to build brand new things. Which is all well and good, but we had discovered very early on that in order for any our projects to be successful we also needed to pay close attention to the people and processes.
This led us to think about the intersection of people, process and technology driving the business as a whole:
Technology supports the process, process supports people, people support the business, the business supports its customers.
Understanding that people are at the core of how technology is used led us to consider change management as a central tenant of all our work. Without attending to the impacts of change, no project can be truly successful and hard-won gains quickly slip back into “the way it’s always been.
All of this change leads to thinking about ensuring that all plans align with the company's overall mission and vision; that way, all change can be aligned with common, agreed upon goals.
So far so good.
From mission and vision, we move into Strategic Initiatives. That sounds grown up and correct - we employ a set of Tactics that we know can be utilized day to day to help reach said goals.
Voila! Home free!
Any Strategy, Tactic, Plan or Roadmap is only that until it can be tailored to suit the actual situation. This is where the quote resonates. I sometimes use the analogy of the plans being like a brand new suit jacket - but we still need to send it to the tailor to make it fit just right. Without Logistics any plan has a high likelihood of failure.
Let’s break it down and look at how we approach the planning for large-scale transformations.
This is the overarching reason that the business exists. Oddly enough, the vision and mission is often murky. Despite having clear statements, a company’s operations and public perception don’t always align. It is essential to have a pretty good understanding of this part to even begin.
It is possible to proceed with even large-scale transformation projects without the perfect vision - provided some work is being done on this is parallel.
Strategy exists at almost every layer - there is strategy in how the business approaches its market and strategies in how things are executed internally to achieve goals. Strategy is about defining those goals all in accordance with the Mission. It is important to remember here - and this is also to keep pounding this into my own head - this is where measurement is of utmost importance. How do we measure success on our initiatives? Part of Strategy is determining how to measure so we can adjust.
Tactics are our set of known actions and methodologies that get things done effectively. Quicksilver, as a team, has many tactics that we have learned and continue developing throughout our careers.
We share these on the ground with our client teams and are constantly learning and refining our tactics. These cover technical knowhow, but also include knowledge of which process to bring to bear, and to what extent when dealing with different teams and situations. Every project and every organization is unique, but we recognize patterns and can adjust on the fly without needing to refer back to Strategy.
And finally, the revelation, at least for me, of the piece that holds this all together - Logistics. Logistics is the real life messy stuff that needs to be in place in order to successfully execute on Strategy with known Tactics.
In war this might mean supply lines to troops - in software engineering it may mean having clean, known deployment infrastructures in place before starting development. It is also an understanding of the capabilities of the team and how those enhance or constrain decisions.
To us, thinking logistically helps us design Roadmaps and Plans that align to the people and processes available, provide the basis upon which we can utilize known Tactics, and give us the best likely for successful outcomes. It is making sure that the things we will need along the way are anticipated and there when we need them.
Putting all of this together means that our planning and operations always run, in parallel, from top to bottom and bottom to top. Mission drives Strategy downwards, our available Tactics drive Strategy upwards, and everything gets balanced in the real-world middle with Logistics.
In the best of all possible worlds, this is a continuum. As conditions change, the cycle of planning, execution, learning and adjusting continues. Different processes are used for situations with differing rates of change or volatility. Much of our work lies in highly volatile situations and therefore requires high iteration - such as Agile - others are slower and steadier and benefit from a Lean approach - each situation is different or can be decomposed into separate pieces, each with the appropriate tools.
This is thinking Stratagistically.
Our approach makes your transformations possible because it incorporates everything that your business is, and what it can be. We’ll work with your strengths while also strengthening your weaknesses. We’ll look at what’s happening on the surface - but as we dive into the vision, mission and operations, we’ll work through the deeper level constraints that prevent long-term success.