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The Mad Clientist

Strategic Envy: Strategic Planning’s Second Deadly Sin

By November 11, 2014April 16th, 2020No Comments

“We want their profits.”

“Their clients should be our clients.”

“We should offer the same services they do.”

“They use project management.”

“They don’t use Six Sigma.”

“Our firm would enjoy those results…let’s do what they’re doing!”

We start with the best of intentions. We want to learn how to improve performance. Sometimes we’re simply satisfying our curiosity—who has the highest profits? Who’s doing the best deals? Who has the clients we want? The list goes on. We analyze the competition to understand what’s happening outside our own doors. Sometimes we see amazing, or even eye-popping numbers, and it’s hard not to look a little closer at what those firms are doing.

But, for many firms this becomes a misguided distraction. Instead of adapting a winning strategy, they adopt one. These distracted firms aim for market-leading results without understanding the strategy to get there. Unfortunately, these results are the tip of a large iceberg. Hidden underneath is the complex ecosystem of formal and informal metrics, training, tools, and even failures the firms delivering the best results have endured. This ecosystem is nearly invisible.  

Strategic envy—setting a strategic plan based on achieving the results of another firm—is the second of the 7 Deadly Sins of Strategic Planning. Strategies based on strategic envy will:

  • Take focus away from market opportunities
  • Undervalue existing operating strengths and sources of advantage
  • Emphasize weakness in the organization 
  • Ignore adopting metrics and operating standards 
  • Aim for different results while clinging to their same culture—without realizing the culture drives the results
  • Relegate clients to a backseat in the implementation and planning phases—meaning these firms become less client-centric 

The most successful strategic plans find new ways to leverage strengths, make smart investments in resources, and—most importantly—optimize the existing culture and behaviors of the organization with the goal of improving performance. The most successful firms:

  1. Build goals around available opportunity—or create opportunity
  2. Emphasize the needs of existing and aspirational clients
  3. Use high-performing competitors as points of comparison—not the endgame
  4. Set clear objectives based on the firm’s overall goal
  5. Define how the objectives will impact resources
  6. –  Do you need more—or less—resources in certain areas
  7. –  Do you need different resources
  8. Adopt clear metrics and operating standards to guide behavior
  9. Identify the behavioral changes needed to ensure success
  10. –  Hint: If you think you don’t need to change behavior, recheck your plan. A change in goals always requires a change in behavior.
      1. Understand how any changes will impact your current clients

    This isn’t to say businesses should ignore what’s working in the market. It’s to take what’s working and make it work for you and who you are.

    Plan accordingly.


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