Ever go to the grocery store without a shopping list? I was broken of the habit long ago but I remember the symptoms of this way of living: you fill up your shopping cart, spend more than you planned only to discover two days later you didn’t really buy anything to eat. I think too often companies have this same problem.
If you wanted to break this down, the week’s menu would be your top-line strategy and the shopping list are the tactics to implement the plan while the shopping cart is the collection of all your resources. When you have resources with no strategy you can wander the isles looking for things to fill the shopping cart and often do. With a shopping list you’ve already thought about where you’re going and as early as when you walk in the grocery store you can choose a basket if the list is short enough.
So how does one effectively avoid the “my big fat full shopping cart” syndrome? I have a few ideas:
Have a plan. It should go without saying that if you don’t have a plan you’ll likely end up someplace else. Having a plan is the first step in making a good shopping list. You can make the plan as deep as you’d like but understand that if it’s too visionary folks will have a hard time getting behind it and executing.
Keep it real. Having a plan that’s believable is critical. By believable I suppose you could infer I mean something that’s realistic and attainable with some reach. Being a startup with a plan to dominate a market in 6-months is not believable. The good news is you can revise as you go along the way so keeping the carrot just out of reach is the best approach.
Buy what you need. Don’t listen to your neighbors, your parents, your friends, or anyone else for that matter. Develop a plan that you believe will achieve the best results for your needs - not those as might be reported in the press or by other pundits. You know what you need, focus on doing what you think should be done and plan the tactics to make it so. By focusing on your needs not only will you find greater happiness but if the whole thing falls apart you can rest knowing you did what you thought was right and there’ll be no regrets.
Don’t buy what you don’t need. Of equal importance is to have the discipline to not buy what you don’t need. Don’t let yourself get talked into buying something you don’t need. Most all stores are designed to drive impulse purchase behavior. Just because that sample tastes good doesn’t mean you need to add it to your shopping list. It wasn’t part of the plan; so either walk away or consciously decide to change your plan. Check that, just walk away and remember my final thought below.
Make a new list often. We grocery shop every week which of course means we have a new list every week as well. Perhaps defining your strategy each week is too often; but I would argue having yourself and other staff re-visit the strategy at a very high level each week might not be a bad idea. How is your staff meeting’s agenda created? My guess is it’s the same old ‘round the table hit and miss approach. If you’re company has three key objectives, why not organize you meetings along this format? With a little creativity I would guess you could come up with hundreds of ways to keep everyone aligned with the top line strategy. The best news if you do? When the list needs to change not only will everyone understand why change in necessary they will likely also see it coming. And it should go without saying small frequent changes along the way are better than infrequent drastic ones. Slowing adding fruit and vegetables to your list to improve your diet is better than one day standing up and choosing to go 100% vegan when all you’ve ate is meat and potatoes your whole life.
So here’s to full shopping carts of the things you need. Deciding to buy those Rolos for your daughter at the checkout stand is your call.