Results over methodology

“No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”
– Helmuth von Moltke

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

I’ve been reading Chernow’s latest epic biography, “Grant,” it’s fantastic, and it has me drawing comparisons between business and military strategy. Grant was the unique combination of master strategist and tactician (some could argue that on the tactics side he had fantastic tactical generals, but I’ll set that aside.)

All too often planning and methodology gets in the way of actually doing the work. We plan to do something saying; I’ll exercise tomorrow, we delay and try to figure out the “best” way to do something rather than simply trying something.

An organization in need of change doesn’t need a long-range plan, in fact, spending the time on the development of one can lead you further astray. They need a 1-page plan to Test, Measure and Modify. Test a new strategy immediately, want to raise prices, call a client and tell them. Measure the pushback, if you raised prices 5% in three months time would they leave or would they understand, If they knew a price increase was coming would they buy more now to hedge? What is your bottom line impact? Modify, make the change. If 5% works do it, if it doesn’t work, test 4%.

This way of thinking is a little more in the style of a different military strategist, Boyd, who came up with the idea of an OODA loop, Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. His thinking was that if you’re in a dogfight, you don’t have time to plan, look and see what is happening, formulate options, make a decision and do it. Do that over and over and over again faster than your competition, and you will win.

Which is better, action and results or planning, methodology and delay?


Also published on Medium.