Ready Fire Aim
"Ready, fire, aim". When reading these words you will most probably feel that something isn't quite right. We should say "ready, aim, fire". The reason why the mangled phrase is used by teachers of strategy is because many managers are too quick to fire. We choose frameworks under pressure to quickly sort problems. We look for an instant solution. It is tempting to pick a framework off the shelf, fire with it and suffer the consequences at leisure. Some believe that “ready, fire, aim” can work as a business process. They argue that if you shoot first and aim later you can collect customer feedback at low cost and get to your goal in much less time. Hmm. This may work if the cost of a number of failures is minimal, but it seems to be a dangerous strategy. It must surely be better to spend time thinking about the problem. We need to consider which frameworks could be successful. Of equal importance, we need to think about what we would do if a framework failed.
Although we would like to think that frameworks offer some sort of scientific underpinning of our decisions, they are no more than possibilities. Much of what we do in strategy and marketing is an experiment. Frameworks are built on stories that other people say have worked for them. We can’t always be certain if the framework is the concoction of an academic who constructs a theory to account for a triumphant business outcome.
In 1909 the New York Times ran an article that claimed there are only seven jokes in the world. Of course, there are far more jokes than this but the author of the article was suggesting that they can be boiled down under headings such as double entendre, the human body, jumbled language, pronunciation and so on. The same could be said for business frameworks. In fact I have categorised frameworks under thirteen headings to help find which best suits a business problem. (See https://www.b2bframeworks.com/all-frameworks).
Many business frameworks have things in common. They show an understanding of the customer and the customers’ needs. They recognise what customers value. They show how to deliver value to customers at an appropriate cost. This means that we must accept that more than one framework could be relevant. It also means that we must be ready to adapt, especially when things don't go to plan. If we accept the possibility that a framework may not work, it will keep us on our toes. Every framework should have a feedback loop that tells us how it is performing so that we can make adjustment should they be necessary.
Many moons ago I remember listening to a management consultant who wrote “Pi” on a whiteboard. The P was huge and the i was small. He turned to his audience and said “What does this stand for?”.
A hand went up and someone shouted "It stands for 3.14159265359 – the mathematical constant that is the ratio of circles circumference to its diameter". We were all impressed.
"No", that's not it. "What else could it stand for?”
Someone suggested private investigator and someone else said it stood for politically incorrect. No one had a clue.
Our consultant guru put us out of our misery. He said "The P stands for planning and the i stands for implementation. The reason the P is so big is because it indicates the relative amount of time that should be spent on this process. If you spend time doing a good planning job, the implementation will be small and easy by comparison". His words stay with me. Spend time getting ready and taking aim and fire when you are really sure.