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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

After the BIG prize? Start with mini milestones

Updated: Jun 19, 2019

As featured in Fast Company.

How would you define a successful strategy? I imagine it's an effective execution which ultimately decides the result. Therefore it's important both functions of strategy and execution are one in the same family. The best way to get a major plan off the ground is to work towards minor achievements, coupled with practical experience. Get something right before moving onto the next stage--this creates safer and "less riskier" investment to your company.

Practical experience is essential in crafting a successful strategy. "Seasoned players" are best at creating and therefore delivering on the strategy. Young management eager to impress upon their seniors may create greater confidence in proposed direction by establishing smaller, yet important achievements which create clearer direction.

In short; you can create the practical experience yourself by preparing shorter term "mini milestones" which promote endorsement before going ahead on the grand plan from day one. To break it down let's consider the following process:

1. Think of the END GAME--where is it you ultimately see your vision taking the company or product. Think clearly and explain it so you understand it as if poetry from your mouth. The clearer it sounds usually the easier you see it, which helps. Now in saying this you are simply voicing it to clarify the potential upside of the plan.

2. Now break down your END GAME into a timeline based on 'mini milestones' that can be created and measured to accurately evaluate and modify the broader strategy where necessary. As we all know--nothing goes to plan. So prepare for it.

3. Seek management endorsement on the overall PLAN but only sell the short "mini milestones" which require much smaller commitments leading to bigger commitments on success. Work to knock out those 'mini milestones' to create company wide support for your next stage.

By following this basic process you make yourself more accountable on your strategy, it gives you greater need to follow effective execution and it leads to practical insights.

Internal politics can slow things down, so this form of strategic planning will create faster endorsement by management and lower all risks associated with launching an ambitious campaign. Another way around politics are tasks that require the least amount of people in the company. Lower the chance of management non committal by avoiding any big budget, logistics, or people requirements. Do it yourself if you can.

To provide an example to this let's say your company would like to target a new customer segment--for example "expanding to China." Many companies are tackling this same issue. In this case you have an overall picture of how you see Chinese experiencing your product; but in reality it's simply a belief and don't put all your eggs on that. You may consider something of the following:

1. Create a temporary shop front online (suggest using Taobao--China's version to eBay) using one of the big online ecommerce platforms. Now work on a small marketing plan by either purchasing media, creating content around your product or simply support SEO. Invite as many customers as you can to log on and experience your product. The objective of this is simply to acquire learning's; to better qualify your broader strategy.

2. Set a milestone achievement and timeline, and have management agree to endorse your broader plan based on the initial investment and achievements. Providing the END GAME is something worth taking the punt on management shouldn't have a problem in working for a minor commitment.

3. Do everything you can to measure, learn, and document the process. Include all results, any takeaways, and, most of all, feedback from customers. Assuming you created an achievable endorsement of your plan; go back to management and work to stage 2 as promised.

By following these steps you have carefully monitored the execution by which you created the strategy and at the same time accumulated practical experience to further cement your direction.

If at the very least your product was not successful; you've lost very little. Saved precious time, investment and the information you've learned will forever pay dividends.

Andrew Collins is the CEO of The Mailman Group.

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