Why do some strategies succeed, and not others?
It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain
You’ve done it once you can do it again
Whatever you’ve done don’t try to explain
It’s a fine, fine line between pleasure and pain
– Simon Philip Thorne / Thomas Edet Asido Jones
Strategy, forward planning, building sustainability into the business model innovation, resilient attention to the cues and trends of a given market and its customers…no work is more important for retailers at the moment than this.
Tactical improvement, camouflaged as strategy, will just give us what we had before, perhaps a bit faster or better in some other operational measure, but not a true strategic framework.
But what ultimately determines whether a strategy succeeds above all else?
Is it people, products, place or process?
These all contribute, of course; however, the dominant part that is seldom assessed is actually team member personality, specifically the personalities of the senior team and their intrinsic motivation towards risk, reward and change.
As Susan McDonald, Leadership HQ, shares with us:
As leaders, we are constantly driving and facilitating change, yet research in this area has demonstrated that 70% of change initiatives fail. Why? How can we make change easier and more successful? The neuroscience of change, and understanding how our brains function, is vital to managing and coping with change.
The part of the brain that is responsible for thinking and high-order processing (the prefrontal cortex) requires a lot more energy to function than does the part of the brain that deals with emotion (the limbic system). That means it’s a lot harder for us to cope with change than to return to our tried and true habits.
We know that often our behaviour is controlled by emotion rather than common sense. What that tells us is that the limbic system in the brain has some control over the information that is passed onto the cortex, which controls our decision-making system.
In other words, our thoughts and actions are coloured or skewed by the emotion that we are feeling. You’ve heard of rose-coloured glasses, the phenomenon that makes certain things look better than they really are. That’s an example of the limbic system influencing our beliefs and perceptions.
The idea that we, generally speaking, avoid pain and seek pleasure is nowhere as obvious as on the topic of change leadership and the communication of strategy.
Strategy and its communication to teams can only really be successful by understanding the individual personality profiles of each leader and by skilfully letting the limbic system work for you by creating positives around change, especially to reinforce behaviour and thought changes.
Communication that doesn’t understand these key limbic insights, that is, communication that doesn’t recognise personality and its resultant individual drivers and generally talks of pain avoidance as a way forward, might be a magnificent piece of strategic architecture. It might be accepted, but never adopted.
One personality within your senior team wants security, another evidence, another the bottom line, and their age and demographics play little or no part at all. Sign-off on strategy is perfunctionary unless sign-in of personality is in place. Pleasure is above all the human pursuit.
Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group, a retail advisory and consultancy group and the Australian elected partner member of the global retail expert’s alliance Ebeltoft Group.
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