Better Business on Purpose
Episode 1: How to Use Strategy – Planning vs. Reacting
This podcast is presented by 2 Visions, consulting and coaching to take your business to the next level. The “Better Business on Purpose” podcast exists to spur you on in pursuing the deeper questions related to leading a business, questions that require the interaction of strategy and identity.
Yates – Hello, welcome to the Better Business on Purpose Podcast this is Yates Jarvis, I’m here with co-host Butler Stoudenmire. Butler, how is this day doing for you, today?
Butler – This day today is doing very well, it is finally no longer 95 degrees outside and its a sunny day but its cool so I am very happy. How about you Yates?
Yates – I’m doing very well, I think you ah that was actually kind of a victim statement though you know, you need to think about that. The day doesn’t control you, Butler. You control the day.
Butler – Well you asked me how the day was doing for me.
Yates – I’m trying to put you into a…anyway. I should be erased here, you’re the host I’m the co-host. We need to switch this around in the future, ’cause I’m clearly the detriment on here.
Butler – Its too early for that.
Yates – All right, what are we talking about today? So I know our goal is to spur on business leaders in their day to day and one of the way that we do that is through strategy, so I know we’re hoping to have a couple episodes dedicated to how we can use strategy to grow our businesses was there a specific angle we wanted to dive into today?
Butler – Yup so today we’re going to look at planning versus reacting and maybe that versus word isn’t right, maybe its planning and reacting, but we want to talk about the dynamic between those two.
Yates – Hmm I like.
Butler – Yes.
Yates – Planning gets good rap in theory, bad rap in having to do it. Reacting: bad rap in theory, we all love to do it.
Butler – Put out those fires, feel productive.
Yates – Yes, what has been your experience with uh reacting recently? Has there been any reacting in your world down there in Albany?
Butler – Well something that I never thought would be the case is we’ve had some drama institutionally due to the presence of some feral cat on our property and so that has occupied way more time than I would care to admit or care to know about and, so yes that has been,
Yates – They’re actual cats?
Butler – Actual cats, we have about ten of them that are that are sauntering around on our property and half of our team loves them and half of our team hates them and its like Sharks and the Jets out there.
Yates – What, what are the comments for why they hate the saunter of the feral cats?
Butler – Sometimes the cats are underneath the car, sometimes they’re on cars, uh, there’s been an incidence of some excrement from a cat on a car, so, you know its, its all the important things all the reasons that we’re actually showing up for work on a day to day basis.
Yates – Dude, this is a perfect example I, this is like the epitome of the example of I guess hurting cats in general, but
Butler – Yes
Yates – That’s so bad, but really, you’re the CEO of this med health company in Albany, which is like, the industry seat of this in Georgia and your talking to me about feral cats, that’s just reality. We think businesses are so fancy and we put on a good show, but at the end of the day, feral cats.
Butler – And they can totally disrupt the important things and we have the, you know and its legitimate, its got to be dealt with because it can totally sink the whole ship. You wouldn’t think so, but it can.
Yates – Yeah, I just keep imagining we’re literally only talking about feral cats and it makes it all very funny but I know we’re talking about what they represent in a business, right?
Butler – Yes, so anyway that is an example of recently when I’ve been dealing with an instance that I’ve had to react to that has taken me away from uh that, that I actually do enjoy doing I’m kind of an anomaly which is to plan and to think strategically, but like I said, its something that has to be thought about and has to be dealt with or otherwise it can throw a big monkey wrench in the strategy.
Yates – Yeah, its not like you can ignore it and that’s not you know some people may be feeling very heightened emotionally about these cats you know, they come in and its like the bane of their existence that day the fact that these cats are still there. But so when you see that, you don’t want to just ignore their needs or their feelings around it, but it also doesn’t mean that you have to have the organization address it at the same level of urgency and level of investment that as their emotion might dictate. So the question is what does that conversation really look like? When people in your organization are upset about the feral cats, I’m using quote fingers of the organization. How do you treat them with respect, you know look at how they’re seeing the world but also have a conversation for alignment to help them see what may or may not be a right step forward for the organization and how it decides to handle this and in what manner and
Butler – Yeah, I think it also gives you the opportunity to ask questions about you know, are we aligned in our shared vision for why we’re showing up to do our work today. Because when I’m showing up, I’m not thinking about the feral cats. I know they’re there but they’re not that important to me, but like you said, they really are for some people and so what is that disconnect as to why the feral cats are enough to totally distract somebody from work that is important to that person.
Yates – Yeah, they may not understand the real opportunity of they day if they’re allowing themselves to be distracted by this or they may perceive that this is a real issue to the business, you know so the type of conversation that you have is one specifically around how does this impact the organization? And as an executive or a leader of the business, you’re looking to try to tie that back to the strategic investments and the strategic priorities you have, so as example, if customer service or customer experience in lifting that this year is a key objective and you have targets around that and you’ve tried to take that down to the smallest levels of the organization ’cause that’s where it happens. Every conversation every interaction one at a time, then the cats, they may be important, you know they could be affecting how customers view the quality of the services you offer or something as simple as not being able to get that situation handled might impugn on the value that you provide when you’re giving care as silly as that sounds, but it sounds like there really is a conversation to be had. What is the right time to have that conversation? Like, how do you, do you have that conversation right then with and employee? Do you tie it back to strategy? Do you have this with multiple people? How do you know when its important enough to? I’m trying to imagine what everyone listening is thinking about. Their feral cats and how on the ball you have to be about handling these. How do you handle something like that at least
Butler – So, when the issue of the feral cats first arose, it was something that I kind of discounted, I wrote it off. You know, they’ve been out there for a while, why is this erupting all of a sudden? So, yes I sometime laugh I sometimes cry. And uh you know, eventually though it got to the point there were enough people talking about it and so we actually spent time in our weekly leadership huddle talking about what we were wanting to do with the cats, about the cats and so we kind of introduced the topic at a you know not an organizational level but it was at least lets get the people in the room who can do something about it to talk about it. So, we spent some time talking about it and we ended up with uh there were a couple of employees who do care a lot about that cats and they ended up raising some money to have them fixed and put back out there. So at least going forward, the cats will not be breeding on our property and therefore not hopefully a problem years from now but they are still out there.
Yates – That you know, its interesting. Its funny how something so small could actually be utilized for the benefit of the business and the benefit of the community and you know, a business is a community within a community and you look at the goals and the mission of your organization and you know, helping to make the community more healthful and I know that you guys don’t do this with animals at least I don’t think you do but, there’s something about the fact that the way in which you handled this speaks to the identity or of the organization so how we handle the reactive, demonstrated who we are and what our identity is. So even the culture of a business, which is a collection of behaviors and then the aspirational culture of a business which is what we want interactions to look like. That can be played out and demonstrated like the voice of a brand in how we make decisions even around these things that seem silly or trivial. So as an example, you know, it may speak to the fact that you want to give health to the community by the fact that you’re trying to give health to these cats. You know? And you’re not just taking them out. I know, you’ve told me on the side when you told me this first happening, that some people just wanted to literally poison them and take them out. And that just doesn’t seem commiserate with the identity of you organization right?
Butler – It is commiserate with not wanting to put reacting before planning but not necessarily with our organization.
Yates – Right, isn’t that interesting? So when you’re reacting vs planning, when you know how important planning is, what you’re basically saying is there’s a temptation to go overboard in your own urgency to only be strategic. And that there can be real detriment to having an acidic kind of build up of worry around what happens if we stay reactive and so the planner, the strategic person if they don’t have a good bedside manner, they don’t know how to bring this into the organization with patience and love, can actually do more harm for the organization by being strategic in a wrong way.
Butler – Yeah, and I think that gets right back to what I was saying earlier about there being a disconnect between different levels of the organization because the front line staff on a team is living much more in that reaction world. Their not the strategic thought leaders of the organization and so you got to be careful you know, when you’re a leader of the organization and in a position to do something and make decisions, not to let that emphasis on strategic thought overpower the concerns of your people who are living much more in a reaction environment.
Yates – Yeah, I guess the trick is how do you connect them so that they’re not so different, you know? So this whole thing that we’ve been talking about is the planning vs reacting and you know, on a spectrum they really are different. One’s proactive, one is reactive however, when it, when push comes to shove in an organization it sounds like the real benefit to the organization is when you can synthesize and have the proactive and the planning be a tool for handling the reactive. So they’re much more married, like opposites attract than you know, enemies battling.
Butler – I think, I think the more that you have planned and that you’ve set the stage for being able to handle issues well, the less you have to react and when you do have to react, its not nearly as violent and urgent.
Yates – Yeah, one of the things we talked about earlier was the scale of investment and how we handle these things and we hinted at the idea that identity, you know is either shown through how you handle these which it is. But you can also use that aspirationally to shape how you react and you can remind people hey now we’re, we’re an organization that is, is x, y and z. So knowing that, how are we going to do this? The alternative is you just see who you really are and you see how you do this, you know? And you try to shape that better. But beyond that there’s also the idea of to what level do we handle these? Not just how do we do it because of who we are, but to what level do we invest? How far do we go? And at the expense of what other things? And so I think that’s another example of the marriage between reacting and planning is that in the moment the level of investment and the urgency for handling things that are fires in front of you, or thing you’re reacting to. Its like they’re almost always the highest they’re ever going to be, you know? Right when that feral cat is, I just can not believe we’re talking about feral cats but right when that feral cat is clawing up a customer or something. That’s the moment where you’ll spend a million dollars in the next second to make it stop. You know, and that’s true for so many reactive things our sense of how important this is is out of whack because it isn’t objectively important or not. Its relatively important or not. That’s the point of strategy and planning, is that things don’t have this inherent value in them. Keeping the cats out. Its a relative value and what deems the value relative to other things is how those elements play into a strategic prioritization to compete. So in your market, you may already have a significant competitive advantage of customer experience and care compared to your competitors and you may not feel the need to significantly invest or to invest to increase that even more. You may have a need to work on other areas of the business and so from that perspective, you may want to be limiting the amount of time and money you put towards initiatives that would help with that. So there must be kind of another way to justify the investment into the feral cats but there’s always going to be a conversation around the level of investment and the urgency of the investment. And I think its so important to communicate to people that you know, the inherent nature of how we judge the importance of these issues. Just because we have to act as a business in a different way doesn’t discount you’re feeling of how important this is. You know, but I think as leaders we can demonstrate that that is a conversation and that that’s something everyone’s invited to play into. The key for the leader is really invite your people into that conversation. Don’t let them just stay at the “this is frustrating me”. Bring them in, equip them, show them how to play the real game which is, well how are we going to spend three hours on this instead of these other things that we know we need to do. Or why would we spend $5000 on this when you’ve all been complaining about not receiving better benefits. Or spending marketing and we know we need new customers, you know, it all is coming from the same pot and so getting, using a conversation like this to help people play the strategy game, is a huge boon to a business especially when you’re competing against other businesses that just don’t treat corporate community in the same way.
Butler – Yeah, you know Yates, along the lines of that conversation there’s a tool that has been very helpful for me uh to process what that looks like. Its the Eisenhower matrix, I don’t know if anybody’s familiar with that but essentially its a quadrant that has you know, whether or not something is important or not important, urgent or not urgent. And depending on which box it falls into, you either you know, you handle it right then, you wait to handle it, you delight it to somebody or you don’t do it at all and it helps to prioritize and kind of make crystal clear what that investment should be and who should be doing it because yes, there are instances where the organization needs to react but a lot of times there just needs to be a reaction or response and it could be from somebody other than the senior leader of the organization, who can still live over here in strategy world while someone else is, is living in reaction world.
Yates – That’s a great point, that’s a great point. Thank you again for listening to the Better Business on Purpose Podcast. We hope that this content is going to help you take a better look at your business and answer some questions for your business that could help it improve. Next week we’re going to be looking at targets and how they relate to using your strategy to grow your business. If you have any questions, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org We look forward to talking again soon, goodbye now.