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  • Writer's pictureOli Shawyer

Bad strategy abounds...

A little while ago, albeit sport wasn't yet back on our screens, I documented my optimism. I spoke about the potential strategic silver lining that had been presented with live sport on hold, and how it presented fertile ground to get strategic.

Well, now a few months later, it'd be fair to say that it's less of an opportunity but more of a desperate need. Many in #sportsbiz around the world right now are likely deep diving into the development of their 2021 strategy. With little left that can be done strategically for 2020, as we all crawl towards some sort of finish line the eyes should be well and truly fixed on the horizon as we swallow the reality of having to address what comes next.

Having spent copious amounts of time thinking about the near future myself of late, I've inevitably spent as much time considering that the room for error in executing our plans next year is much smaller when compared to previous years. Particularly as sports of all kinds pursue a 'as-quick-as-possible' recovery whilst still dealing with revenues being wiped and tallying expenses that were once not forecast continuing to present themselves. Getting our plans and approach to 2021 as close to right as possible is vital... it will mean survival for some, reset for most, and just maybe... growth for those ready to take advantage of the situation.

But it all hangs on our strategy.

I've written numerous times about the role and strength of doing strategy right, and those that work with me likely have a drinking game going off-camera on Zoom for every time I mention the word. But having recently been immersed in reading in my down-time, of which to note is Richard P. Rumelt's Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, it's become evidently clear that too much of what is done, or is likely to be done, will be bad strategy.

Fighting the internal pressures to find time to develop a strategy will be key. Good strategy needs bandwidth to consider, identify, hypothesise. To collaborate, focus and align. Otherwise you end up in the all too familiar situation where many organisational leaders say and think they have a strategy, when in fact they do not - what they likely have is a deck (of some sorts) encompassing the following hallmarks:

  • Fluff – bad strategy is mostly made up by stuff that creates the illusion of high-level thinking and uses jargon and language that will mean very little to the business and key stakeholders. It results in the old 'says a lot, without saying anything' result that inevitably sits in people's emails never opened again;

  • Failure to face the challenge – bad strategy doesn't recognise nor define the challenges faced, ultimately providing little (if any) context and rationale for recommendations, or worse yet, recommendations and actions that will be a complete waste of time and money.;

  • Mistaking goals for strategy – bad strategy presents statements of desire as opposed to outlining plans for overcoming obstacles. It refuses to define what needs to happen for these goals to be realised.

  • Bad strategic objectives – bad strategy presents objectives (if any) that fail to address critical issues, are impracticable or worse yet, a laundry list of desirable outcomes that comes with it a complete inability to coordinate and focus resources across the business.

We've all seen these before. We've all been guilty of some of them, and we will continue to fall for them again. But as we turn our attention towards 2021, as we look to reset and go again, keep an eye out for them. Whilst it will be difficult to avoid all, anything is an improvement. After all, at end of the day our strategy doesn’t have to get it perfectly right – it just needs to get it more right than our competitors.


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