Three Ways Your Business Strategy May Resemble Waldo

I heard a sermon in church this past week that began surprisingly with a “Where’s Waldo?” cartoon.  A bit unorthodox you might think until you hear the reason.  Focus and simplicity were two themes of that particular sermon which are certainly applicable as life principles.  But that mindset is also invaluable in your business.

This week’s blog will explore that a bit.

If by chance you are unfamiliar with this red-striped character, Where’s Waldo?™ is a series of children’s books created by British illustrator Martin Handford.  The books consist of detailed double-page illustrations depicting dozens or more people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location. Readers are challenged to find a character named Wally hidden in the group.  Readers of all ages race against time and each other to see who can find Waldo the quickest.  You can click here for a cartoon example.

Hmmm…Waldo and business strategy.  Any connection?  Sadly so. Many organizations fall into the trap of elaborate business goals yet  employees (and perhaps customers) don’t really understand them, hence, that strategy is lost in a series of many activities and performance that fail to move the organization forward.

Can you relate to this illustration?  Before you answer this question I challenge you to respond as your employee not yourself. Therein lies the leadership principle and the opportunity to bring more focus to your team. Consider these three indicators your business strategy may need some clarity.

#1  Your over-arching strategy is longer than a tweet.
You don’t have to live in the world of Twitter to apply this principle.  You should be able to articulate why you do what you do in less than 140 characters.  In two to three short sentences, your product or service should be described in a way that enables your employees or customers to understand what makes you different from the competition.  If it takes a five-minute explanation, your business  model may be too complex.  This doesn’t mean your strategy doesn’t have depth but the over-arching purpose has to be simple.  If you can’t explain it easily, how can your employees do the same?

#2 Close may not be good enough.
This principle is perhaps the greatest obstacle for organizations who want to be great.  What does this mean?   A multitude of projects and tasks may be good things for the business but if they are not linked directly to a strategy, they can easily become a non-value add to the bottom line.  It is that alignment that allows the team to prioritize and even reject seemingly good initiatives. How much time is wasted on this “good” work versus meaningful performance?  Falling short of this discipline is the small degree that can make or break your success.

#3 Your employees don’t know how their job “fits in” to the bigger picture.
Leadership always has an individual impact.  This third indicator captures the reality that can occur at the employee level of your business.  If employees’ perceive their job as simply “the job” and don’t understand how their ideas, creativity, service and dedication  link back to the “why of the business”, marginal performance is likely.  Clarity drives engagement.  And engagement drives focused performance.

I realize this idea is much easier said than done.  In fact, clarity in our business strategies is an on-going task. I face the same challenges as you.  Maybe that’s why a Where’s Waldo?™ cartoon was still on my mind long after that church service ended.  How about you? Here’s to spotting the Waldo in your business in a snap!

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