Don’t Forget the Soft Side of Strategy

Strategic management is not a box of tricks or a bundle of techniques. It is analytical thinking and commitment of resources to action. But quantification alone is not planning. Some of the most important issues in strategic management cannot be quantified at all.”

–   Peter Drucker


Strategy is often a ‘catch-all’ term and it comes in all shapes and sizes.  As a coach and strategist, I find that many clients come to me looking for tried and true methodologies they can implement to solve what they consider to be short term problems. Often, they revolve around cash flow, operating budgets, recruiting, team strengthening, capacity building.  The hard skill stuff.  Core business functions. But when you get right down to it, it’s roots go a lot deeper than that.


You see,  everything that appears to be a short term problem is really long term if you trace it back to its origin; and the origin of everything always comes down to the same thing. People. My philosophy is that to be successful in business you need both short term planning and long term strategies.  You also need a business strategy and a people strategy – and the two should be integrated.


Business strategy boils down to having the right hard skills and knowing how to use them.  You need to know or learn and then continue to learn the mechanics of running a business – both short and long term. Schools teach you basic business skills, merchandizing, accounting, GAAP analysis , selling, and all the other hard skills. Those strategies are pretty straightforward. Most involve formulas and deviation tables that can be memorized and applied.


People strategies are a lot more squirrely and are often overlooked.  They require soft skills, don’t come with a manual and consequently, are harder to teach. There is no ‘one size fits all.’  Have you ever seen a course called ‘Works and Plays Well With Others’? I haven’t and it’s a shame, because people can ultimately make or break a business.  Should that happen short term, you can bet they’ll never be a long term option.


People strategies are rooted in your core values –  your vision and mission.  They’re rooted in the people who will benefit from their association with you and become loyal customers, perhaps even your evangelists. People help you build a company brand that’s vibrant and thriving, not just for today, but for posterity. A business that doesn’t include a people strategy cannot succeed.


To some, the idea of building one may be hard to fathom – because you can’t count them yet. You don’t know them. They’re intangible, but they’re out there. Yet, you need to include them because your future depends on them. They are people you can help. They are the people who need you. They simply may not know it yet. It’s up to you.


Begin by letting your value, your ‘why’, and your word be the cornerstones of your people strategy, and you’ll be around, for the long term.




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