Lessons in Designing Strategy from Planning a Road Trip

Posted on Posted in Strategy
Photo Courtesy - Sean MacEntee
Photo Courtesy – Sean MacEntee

Yesterday, one of my friend approached me seeking help in planning a road trip across my home state (Rajasthan, which shares a border with Pakistan).

So, we did what everyone in such a situation does. We researched all the cities and listed down a long list of places of interest in the state; we researched about the weather during his visit; options for stay; possible routes; places to eat, etc. We then wanted to decide on all the options and found out that the entire exercise was overwhelming to say the least. There were just so many decisions that needed to be made, like:

  • What should be the sequence of cities that he should visit?
  • how to decide which cities should he stay at
  • How should he travel? By car, bus, caravan or train?
  • Which places of interest should he not miss and many more.

Every single question like this had multiple options, each seemingly equal to the other.

We then decided to create a set of “Guiding Principles“.

  1. He will drive his own car and will not drive past 7 PM.
  2. Always stay at a home stay where available or at the best hotel (as per tripadvisor) in the city.
  3. He wants to see all historically important sites, museums and archeological sights in the state.

Just these three decisions made it so much more easier to finalize and decide on all the other questions. We were done planning the entire trip, start to finish in another 45 mins.

When I think back about what we did, I see a lot of similarities between this process and how we design strategy for our businesses.

Its all about making choices from all the various options that are available.

  • What markets do we want to be in?
  • What kind of customers do we want?
  • Which products do we go with?
  • Which people to hire, fire or retain?

The process of defining the strategy for an organization becomes much easier and faster if you decide on a “Guiding Principle”, ideally one core theme that will enable all subsequent choices to become much more easier.

Some companies decide to lead through Customer Service (Zappos), some through exceptional product design (apple), some through extreme customer focus (amazon) and some through amazing products (Intuit), etc.

If you communicate this central guiding principle along with the strategy, it helps people who execute the strategy to be able to make better choices, when something unexpected happens.

I am sure that when my friend leaves for the road trip, there will be plenty of surprises waiting for him. I am sure that he will need to change his plan on the go based on the surprises. As long as his core guiding principles remain the same, I am sure that he will not find it difficult to navigate all these and come back happy with his experience.

The same is with execution of the strategy in our businesses. We can rest assured that there will be surprises along the way when you start executing the strategy. As long as the “Guiding principle” remains the same and is known to everyone, it becomes easier to navigate the surprises that we face and come out winning.

So, what are your “Core Guiding Principles“?

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