September 2, 2022 | Blog | 3 minutes

Why I don’t have time for Strategy

Anjan Lahiri


Strategy is about making choices. Choices about “Whom to serve?”

A Customer is not someone who gives you business. A Customer is that person whom you choose to receive business from. And then be the best in serving them with your product or service. You must ‘Choose’ your customer.

Every company has a lot of internal problems. The best way of solving all these problems is to ‘fire’ all of your customers. But of course you can’t do that. But you might find that 60% of your customers? How much of your problems will you solve? 60% of your problems – probably more. But of course we need ‘new’ customers today who will be our anchor customers tomorrow.

  • Don’t have time: We have the right customers if only we can execute and deliver: When a company is bogged down by bad delivery, more often than not the reason is trying to serve the incorrect customer segment, one that you are not structured to excel in. But Management Loves ‘Busyness’ and everybody is busy spending time on ‘solving problems’ as opposed to trying to understand the root cause of the problems. “Hence I don’t have time for Strategy.”
  • Nobody Understands my problems: On a daily basis there are issues with customers, suppliers, finance, HR, prospective employees, legal. Solving each of them requires a deep understanding of the unique situation and culture of the organization. Nobody can help without a deep understanding of all these interdependencies. And all current people are busy solving these problems. “If only we can overcome the current situation then we will be OK.”
  • That will not happen. Typically, a company’s ‘Strategy’ should be in alignment with its ‘Structure’ and how it manages its ‘Execution’ wrapped in a harmonious ‘Culture’. In most companies there is a gap in the alignment of Strategy with Structure, its Culture and its Execution. But to management which is sitting on the boat this can be less obvious. To management “My situation is unique and nobody from outside can understand what I am going through.”
  • Don’t have the people: Focusing on understanding Strategy requires people different from managers who are running the company. These people typically should not have a deep involvement in ‘current’ execution but have a wider view of other companies across industries. These people cannot be found within the company and even if they exist, they will be the typical ‘High-Po’ (High Potential) people who cannot be excused from current assignments. Hence the people to do this are not there internally. For management “the people who can help me do this are insanely busy on critical initiatives right now.”
  • It is Expensive: Yes it is always expensive to hire some people from outside to do ‘Strategy’. But typically that is like directing a ‘Firehose’ to water a dry flower-pot. The strategy team will come in for a few weeks and provide a ‘deluge’ of best practices that is way beyond the capability of the company to absorb in that short amount of time. And later any lack of improvement in performance will be due to the company’s inability to ‘implement’. “I cannot spend a million dollars for a few weeks of strategy engagement that I am not ready to absorb the results of. It will also take time away from my current priorities”.

But fundamentally the importance of ‘Strategy’, where the key question is asked and answered remains: “Who is my customer and Why?” Inability to get something done does not remove the need for it. In fact, makes it even more urgent to act upon.