Strategies and tactics in Tour de France

“I’m a sprinter. It’s my job,” said Mark Cavendish

Strategies and tactics. Roles and responsibilities. Mark Cavendish’s response clearly shows he knows his role, when the interviewer asked him how he did.

The strategies and tactics of each team change continuously during this 21-day race. The Tour de France, which started on July 2nd, is the world’s most grueling bike race. It crosses France, dips into the Pyrenees and then the Alps, before finishing on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Strategies and Tactics are Fluid

Each team of 9 riders and multiple support staff, is a highly organized and coordinated machine. Everyone on the team has a role and each person understands their role and the impact he has on the rest of the team. As Cavendish said, his job is to gain points in the sprint finishes, and try to win as many stages as possible. This helps the team move up in the overall General Classification, and it gains him individual points, as well as potential podium positions at the end of each stage. So far, Cavendish has 29 stage wins to his Tour de France career – more than any other rider in the 113 years of this race.

Teams wouldn’t succeed unless everyone knew their role. One leader is chosen as having the best potential to win the yellow jersey and thus the Tour de France. The rest act as support crew to keep him safe from crashes and make sure he’s positioned well to win points and lead the race. Some are mountain climbers who excel in the Pyrenees and Alps climbs. Others are domestiques who ferry water bottles from the team cars to their fellow team mates and create lead-out trains for the favored sprinter(s) on the team. Their job is to keep the leader and the sprinters safe and well positioned to win during the 21 days of the race.

The strategies and tactics of some teams are to concentrate only on improving their standings in the General Classification with the goal of getting both a team win and the overall yellow jersey. For them, the early stage wins are less important than making sure their key guy and their sprinters are safely positioned and don’t lose time to any other teams.

Other teams focus on earning King of the Mountain or Sprinter jerseys, and building the strength, endurance and collaboration of their team members. These teams may be newer to the Tour de France, and haven’t developed their members into the well-oiled machines of BMC, Team Sky, Movistar, or Astana.

The Tour de France is an excellent example of strategies and tactics at work, as well as teamwork and leadership. Over the course of the 21 days, each team’s strategies and tactics may change depending on external factors, such as weather, illness, crashes, and competitive challenges from other teams. The overall leader could crash out of the race or get so ill he has to abandon. If that happens, the team needs to pick another leader to rally the rest of the team around.

Listen to the interviews and you’ll gain insights into some of the strategies the teams are using to be successful.

How might you apply some of these same concepts to your business? What can be learned from the Tour de France?

Agile Decision Making Framework is Flexible

The answer is Yes, you can! The question is, can you use the Agile Decision Making Framework for anything besides strategic planning?

Adapting the Agile Decision Making framework to social media planninggThe beauty of the Agile Decision Making Framework is that it can be applied to any type of project – even marketing and social media planning. The framework helps you focus your thinking by answering five strategic questions as you work your way around the template.

Many social media plans I’ve seen start with identifying your ideal customer and their specific needs. While this is important, it’s not the place to start.

Define your outcomes first

As with strategic planning, you need to start with your future outcomes. That way the actions you take are designed to help you achieve those outcomes. Otherwise, you’re just throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

Using the Agile Decision Making Framework, start with Phase A, answering the question, Where do we want to be?  What do you want to accomplish through social media marketing? They should support the higher level outcomes of your organization’s overall strategic plan. Once you’ve determined which social media outcomes can help support those, you can begin to focus on your ideal customers and their needs. In the process, you’ll need to also identify which social media platforms they use the most so you focus your efforts there when you’re ready to take action.

Once you’ve completed Phase A, move on the Phase E. This will help you identify the future external factors that could have an impact on the actions you take today.  These become your future Opportunities and / or Threats that you need to consider so you’re prepared to respond should any of them occur. Why look at the external environment you ask? Because your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. What happens locally and even globally can have profound effects on your customers, their needs, and their desires for your products and services.

With social media, you have to continually be tracking these future trends because new platforms emerge and popular ones lose favor. You don’t want to be stuck on an island by stuck on an islandyourself after your customers have moved over to another platform. If you don’t periodically focus on Phase E, you could be missing the boat!

Once you’ve reviewed Phases A and E, you can move on to Phase B. This is where you identify the specific targets you want to reach and track through social media, answering the question, How will we know when we get there?

These may include the number of click throughs on your links, or a specific increase in customer engagement on your Facebook page, or a percentage increase in website traffic and/or subscribers to your email list. The more specific, the better, so you can track your efforts and see what progress you’re making.

Phase C comes next, answering the question, Where are we today?  The first three phases were focused on your future outcomes, your ideal customer’s needs, external trends, and specific goals. This phase looks at your current situation. What are your Strengths and Weaknesses related to social media? Are you just starting? Do you have a strong team working in this area? Do you need to hire a consultant to help? How well do you know the various platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc.? How well versed are you with Google Analytics and Google Adwords? Those are the kinds of skill sets you want to list under your Strengths and Weaknesses. You should also fill out the Opportunities and Threats areas, which came from the external scan you did in Phase E.

By now, you should begin to see some major themes evolving. These become your high level strategies which you list under Phase D, answering the question, How will we get there? These are the specific actions you need to implement to close the gap between your current situation and your future outcomes. Some high level strategies might be training, hiring external talent, creating a social media policy, and customer engagement. Under each strategy will be specific actions you need to take, such as finding online training webinars, advertising for talent, researching social media policies you might adapt to your organization, and creating a content calendar.

Using the Agile Decision Making Framework makes the process of creating your social media plan fairly simple and fast. The next step is to write it up and share it with your team. Then start to implement it!

Planning without action is just dreaming.

Simple Planning Model for Small Businesses

A while ago I came across an article written by Noah Weiss for (Nov. 2014),  which describes a simple planning model he calls #now, #next, #later. In it he discusses a method for smaller businesses and teams to create effective action plans using what he calls “Priority Buckets”.

Priority Buckets
Original image by Arvid Rudling,Flickr creative commons:

As I read on, I realized this might work really well within the systems thinking planning model. You still need to have a direction, a Desired State or Vision of what you want to achieve. But once you’ve identified that, it would be fairly simple to then ask yourself the following three questions:

If XXXXX is what we want to achieve or what we want our organization to BE in 12-18 months, then…
1) What do we need to do #now to make sure this happens?
Now is within the next 2-4 weeks. These are the most critical actions that will make the biggest difference in the shortest amount of time. They are usually easy to identify, and many may already be underway. Once those are identified, then ask…

2) What do we need to do #next to achieve this Desired State or Vision?
These are the actions or activities that must be accomplished in the next 1-3 months AFTER the #now activities.

These are harder to identify, so sometimes a simple exercise of “If this, then that”, may be necessary here. Developed by a colleague and project management pro, Terry Schmidt, this consists of asking “If this is to occur, then what needs to happen to make it so?” Keep asking that as you identify each of the steps or activities needed to achieve a specific goal.

For example, if your team is trying to determine which of two software investments to make, you might ask….
A.  If we make investment #1, then what else will need to happen? These could be
> additional IT resources will be needed for new programming, for example, and
> we’ll need to create new training programs for the staff who will use the new tool.
The initial investment may be the least out of pocket cost, but what are the internal costs of additional resources being diverted for extra programming and training? How many months will it take to get approval for the resources, do the internal programming, and create and deploy the training modules?

B.  If we make investment #2, then what else will need to happen? These might be
> no additional IT programming since the tool exists in the cloud, not on the company servers.
> no need to create training programs since the investment comes with pre-recorded training videos.
This out-of-pocket investment may be more, but it will enable the company to hit the ground running and be up to speed faster without diverting additional resources for programming and training.

3) What do we need to do #later?
This is the final question to ask and concerns the activities that may take place 3+ months AFTER the #now and #next activities. Essentially, this is a place to park the ideas that various members have a passion for, but which aren’t necessarily critical to achieving the Desired State or Vision. Just list them here and re-visit them again in three months to see if anything has changed.

By asking these questions, your team has essentially created a simple action plan that includes your Desired State or Vision with a date by when that’s to be accomplished, and then the critical actions that need to take place to achieve it. Each action needs to have dates by when they must be achieved and a leader to move that action forward. You will also need to identify the minimum acceptable goal for each activity.

For example, if purchasing the software in the above example is the decision, and you don’t have all the funds in place, then you need to identify the minimum dollar amount you need to raise within the next 3 months in order to purchase the software. Remember, the purchase of that software is one of the critical activities that will help you achieve your Desired State in the next 12-16 months.

You also need to identify the specific activities you need to undertake to raise that minimum dollar amount to purchase the software, who will lead each fund raising activity, and by when each will be accomplished. Then gather together again as a team within the next 3 months to review your results, make any changes, and adjust your #now, #next, #later activities.

Each team member can then tag their own actions as fitting under #now, #next, #later to help them prioritize the detailed activities they are working on under each of the larger action items.

It’s easy to get mired in the details the further you go down this path. It’s somewhat like following Dorothy down a rabbit hole and getting lost in the woods. So it frequently helps to have a facilitator in the room to keep you on track and help you find your way to the “yellow brick road”.

Contact us if you have questions about this and/or would like help implementing this at your organization.

Obamacare is Right Around the Corner

By Jeri Denniston, Denner Group International.  September 27, 2013

Takeaways: Obamacare will impact individuals and business alike. Small businesses in particular face some unique challenges. National Federation of Independent Business offers information about the impact of the national healthcare reforms.

Oct 1 kicks off the enrollment period for January 2014 implementation of Obamacare health insurance reforms. Are you prepared? Now is the time to consider the ramifications for your business before 2014 unfolds.

Regardless of whether your business operates with fewer than 50 employees or more, the new healthcare laws will affect you. This is especially important for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and could impact your expenses – especially if you haven’t offered health care insurance before.

The National Federation of Independent Business created a webinar in March 2013 which explains the implications for small businesses. Click below to watch the webinar or visit the website to download the slides.

Businesses with less than 50 full time equivalent employees (130 hr/mo or those with Full Time Equivalents defined as total monthly Part Time employees divided by 120 hours) are not mandated to provide insurance or pay penalties. But business owners with multiple small businesses will be aggregated into one large group. If those employees are greater than 50 then they will be required to offer insurance. By 2016 this aggregated market expands to businesses with less than 100 employees and those are subject to all the health insurance reforms, as are individuals, too. You’ll be paying for all the changes one way or another.

Strategy Execution is Key to Success

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International 2-20-2013

Takeaways: The area where most companies fall short is in strategy execution by not tying individual performance to the key strategies they need to implement. Y-Change provides an organization-wide tool to track projects and strategies across the enterprise, including individual performance.

We’ve heard it time and again – the area where most companies fall short is in strategy execution. They spend countless hours up front planning and engaging their staff in providing solutions and getting their input on the key strategies. But then when they begin to implement them, they usually fall short of plan. Why?

Many companies do a lot of things right. They dig deep to find what’s working and what’s not. They involve their key stakeholders both within and outside the organization. They ask for and integrate feedback into the plan. They streamline processes, create new structures to improve communications and work flow. Yet, the old habits still creep in and it’s back to business as usual.

A June 2008 Harvard Business Review article by Gary L. Neilson, Karla L. Martin, and Elizabeth Powers of Booz & Company, shares the case of “a global consumer packaged-goods company that lurched down the reorganization path in the early 1990s.” It’s a perfect example of where many firms fall short on the execution side. They overlook the key ingredient – the people in the organization who have to execute the strategies.

Tie annual reviews to strategy execution

By not tying individual performance to the key strategies, the company found that their people weren’t being held accountable for executing the strategies well and effectively. People do what you “inspect” not what you “expect”, as our former mentor Stephen Haines liked to say. In addition to creating the right structures and providing people with adequate resources to do their work, it is critical to tie their annual reviews and the rewards system to the key strategies you want everyone to focus on. Without that, they will naturally revert to doing the work that generates the rewards. It’s human nature.

Y-Change Cascade of Planning and Implementationg
Cascade of Planning

A key tool for managing strategy execution at all levels is Y-Change. This online software tool tracks all the strategies and key actions at every level in an organization, along with accountabilities and project deadlines. It’s even possible to tie in each individual’s performance review plan to the high level organizational strategies so you can see the chain and interrelationships from the lowest level all the way up to the CEO’s office. This powerful tool is used by many organizations of all sizes and in any industry because it is fully customizable to the needs of the organization.

If you would like to see a free demo, click here.