Traction vs Distraction

We have all found ourselves losing traction in regard to important, though most often non urgent projects. This brief tip may give you permission to drift away from your plan on occasion.

In its simplest form, a strategic plan is a set of actions designed to increase (or in some cases decrease) ‘x’.  X could be anything, however common items include revenue, cash flow, customer satisfaction, market share etc. Here’s the important thing to remember, your plan is not static. The business environment is continually changing, offering opportunities as well as distractions which may look very much alike. So, how do you tell the difference?

An opportunity will increase ‘x’ far beyond what you had originally planned while a distraction will decrease ‘x’. An example may help. 

A fast growing automotive company has a plan to grow market share and revenue by acquiring three competitors in their region over the next 12 months. Two months into their fiscal year a competitor 200 km away informs them that they are going out of business and would like to sell to them. The price seems fair, and the businesses align, so is this an opportunity or a distraction? It depends. On the surface it looks like it is exactly what they had planned to do already with the stated objective of acquiring three new stores.  The major consideration is the distance of 200km away, it’s not in their area/market. Perhaps this distance is too far to offer hands on management or the market is significantly different from the one they know. Will it tie up too many resources, both capital and human, for what it’s worth? In the end, they determined this was a distraction not an opportunity and they passed on the purchase.

Without a clear, focused plan they would not have been able to confidently avoid this distraction disguised as an opportunity.

What guides you in vetting the many opportunities and distractions you face every day? 


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Ian Whitfield