Why strategy says ‘We need to talk’

About strategy and tactics, business development and diversity

Aren’t we all great at strategy? The holy grail of management, haven’t we all laid our managers’ hands on it. When it comes to decision-making, it becomes obvious that many of us have not listened to strategy and rather looked after tactics, hoping for a quick win. This is nothing new, not in business development, neither in diversity, the two unlikely twins that I have chosen as the core of my own business. Unlikely the pairing may seem, but strategy can really glue them together. If we listen to what strategy has to say.

If you want to develop business you need to tell the world a) that you exist, b) explain who you are and what you do, c) what differentiates you from competitors and d) carry the prospective clients over your doorstep. Then begin a relationship, care for them, keep them and develop the relationship and business with that client. We have all heard of Porter’s strategy planning and hopefully have made a plan before rushing out to flirt with potential clients. But all too often, we fall to tactic’s charm and just do what seems to be picking low-hanging fruit.

The same is valid for introducing a diversity concept in our businesses. Often driven by a push factor like “XYZ has great PR about their diversity engagement, we want that, too” – or by a pull factor like “We need to fulfill that quota, but we have no females or other diverse folks applying with us and staying long enough to climb up to management ranks”. Instead of listening to what strategy can tell us about visions and goals, purely opportunistic action is triggered, not followed up and thus, in the end, delivers only short-term results and the wishful glances at new tactics arise again.

The solution is no secret. Strategy first, tactics second. Don’t fall for being prompted by short-term activism and just shoot out activities without having a strategy in place. For business development, this clearly means defining who you are, what differentiates you from the competition, how and what to offer where, and so on. With regard to diversity and of course inclusion in your company, it’s the same. Without knowing exactly who you are and what makes you diverse or not so diverse, you can’t tell where your blind spots are. And whatever you do (doing the flag-waving thing?) is not enough to really get you closer to your goal – if really becoming more diverse and inclusive is your goal. Maybe it’s just an advancement in certain rankings you strive for, or better PR coverage, or a nice boilerplate text for your next recruitment brochure.

Oh yes, you still wait for the answer why business development and diversity are twins separated at birth. Well, in these times, where a considerable number of companies actively look for diversity in choosing their services providers, where all flights of businesses are facing recruitment challenges (Generation Z says ‘hi’) and are fighting against a voting from employees by their feet, you need to differentiate and position yourself strategically, that is with a clear set of goals, and not just by tactical action. Be diverse and have a more diverse client base. Develop your business into new spheres with a more diverse workforce. Diversity brings innovation, innovation brings new business.

How to get there? Listen to “Strategy” and don’t turn your head after tactics before saying or doing anything.