Let's talk about the importance of maintaining a balance between 'what' (the objectives) and 'how' (the methods) in business operations and strategy, and knowing when to call in specialized expertise to bridge the gap.
Businesses typically face two fundamental types of problems. The first is the “what” problems - as in, “what should we do?” The second is the “how” problems - as in, “how do we do it?” In most companies, these questions are the domain of different tiers within the organization: managers tackle the “whats” and their staff grapples with the “hows”.
Climbing the Ladder
Over the course of a long career people high up in the organization often evolve into “what” specialists, progressively forgetting their “how” skills. Picture a situation where a Chief HR Officer, typically involved in strategic workforce planning, is asked to directly handle a routine employee onboarding session. This quickly highlights their dependence on HR team members, who are experts in the day-to-day operational aspects of human resources, to efficiently execute these fundamental HR tasks, translating big ideas into concrete actions.
Spotting the All-Rounders
In fact, one of the first signs that someone is ready for a promotion is that they display self-direction. These high performers are able to address both “what” and “how” within their scope of responsibilities. These self-directed high performers are invaluable assets in any organization.
Hitting a Roadblock
When things stop getting done in a business, it is usually because there is a gap in capability to address these “what” and “how” questions. If nobody knows what to do, you can hire a consultant to develop a strategy. If you know what needs to get done but don’t have people who know how to do it, you can engage a skilled contractor or an outsourced workforce solution provider to add the needed bench strength…but what about when both the what to do and the how to do it are unclear?
This may be caused by the departure of a key staff member but frequently it is a result of the business trying to move into unfamiliar territory – targeting a new market, facing a new competitive challenge, or grappling with the changing operational demands of growth. In these cases, the organization may flounder, either not addressing the issue at all or making repeated attempts but getting little progress. A company mired in this situation loses momentum and its employees lose motivation just when you need them to rise to the opportunities!
Bridging the Gap
That’s where the role of a versatile, hands-on consultant is critical – someone that is a switch hitter. Drawing from extensive experience, these experts not only advise on the “what” but also actively engage in the “how” – guiding implementation and often serving in a dual role as a project consultant and a coach to upskill your staff.
Engaging such a consultant can be a strategic move to unblock the stalemate and propel the business to new heights, effectively overcoming both the “what” and “how” hurdles. At Stratford Group, we understand these dynamics and offer tailored solutions to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. We pride ourselves on our ability to not just consult, but to actively participate in the transformative journey of your business.
In the complex world of business problem-solving, addressing the “what” and “how” is just the beginning. As for the “who” – well, we believe that’s a conversation worth having with us. Let's talk.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: This blog post was originally published in 2011 and has been updated with new content.