When thinking about the cosmos, a commonly held belief is that we are not alone. In developing virtually any type of strategies, specific resources such as personnel, money, or facilities are required. In your company setting, unfortunately, you are not alone. Others with what they feel are equally attractive alternatives will be vying for some of the resources that your plan requires. Quite often, a tug of war begins with multiple sides believing that their requests are more right than any others. Naturally, each person will envision the upside of their plan much higher than others while simultaneously viewing their downside much lower than others. As Yogi Berra once said, “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” However, when it comes to requesting resources, it is easy to forecast a greater future for your ideas. Obviously, only in hindsight will those predictions be proven or disproven long after resource commitments have been made.
Expect a battle over resources. It will come. Seldom is there one and only one strategic initiative that could be pursued. Complicating the situation is the pressure felt by all companies to meet their short-term financial objectives. Postponing costs on strategic initiatives can have significant short-term positive impacts. Of course, taken to extreme, it can also lead to disaster. To help you win the resource commitment battle, be sure to enlist the help of others; make your strategy their strategy. Make it compelling for them to support it to further help them reach their goals. It is a zero-sum game. Colleagues will become advocates or adversaries. Some may sit on the fence for a while, but most will move in one direction or the other. Although the term “battle” has strong overtones and implies conflict, the actual situation is seldom this divisive or obvious.
Most often the key to success is to de-risk the plan by showing incremental positive outcomes. Avoid fear and dire predictions such as, “If we don’t do this, then… will happen.” Identify external unbiased indicators that your approach and assumptions seem to indicate you are on the correct path. Try to develop a plan that avoids large upfront commitments that can lead down a path of no return. Develop short-term milestones that can show positive progress that further de-risk the activity while moving steadily toward the goal.
In larger organizations, the focus seems to be on not losing instead of winning. Small lower-risk, proof- positive incremental plans that avoid large, earth-shaking decisions are far more palatable in many organizations. Startups and smaller companies seem to have the tendency to try to jump onto the next big thing and may be overly influenced by overly optimistic visions of the future. Objectivity, in both large and small companies, can easily be lost. Emotion always enters into the decision-making process. Do not count solely on logic because it generally is not being persuasive. Paint the future vision with an easily recognizable outline sketch and show how it can become a reality with small brush strokes, one at a time. Focus on buy-in to start and keep interest through demonstrable incremental progress. With this approach, the battle can be avoided, but the victory still can be won, probably with fewer casualties on all sides.