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Strategy Makes it possible. People Make it work.
S K "BAL" Palekar
Chairperson, S P Jain Institute of Management & Research, Executive Education Centre
Mr. Palekar in his second innings for the last 3 years as an ed... more>>
The strategists set the direction using logical and cerebral methods but what makes it work is the energy, hearts and aspirations of the people in the organization. A mere textbook strategy does not work well.

It is so easy to forget that a strategy works not only because it is logical but also because it captures the hearts and tests the guts of people who make it work. The wellspring of our actions is frequently in our hearts and not in our heads. You may have experienced - sometime in your life - the feelings felt by those 17 athletes who broke the record of running four minutes a mile in 1954. Roger Bannister was the first in the world to break the four minute barrier (for a mile) - a feat claimed to be "impossible" by experts. And then, within a few days, 17 people all over the world broke the same record! Yes !! What prevented those 17 people to do the same just two weeks earlier? It was the mindset!

All of us act based on our mindsets. There are some plans which "leap out" at us as being possible. There are some others which we think are not possible. Then it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. Somebody rightly said that "if you can see it, you can believe it. If you can believe it, you can become it". For a strategy to become successful, it should be backed not only by a sound marketing head but an energetic and committed heart as well.

In 1991 the mosquito repellant mat market was an annual 150,000 cases. At Balsara, where I headed marketing and sales then, we had just introduced Odomos mats and had kept a very safe and conservative target of 4000 cases for the whole nation for the whole year and it worked out to be only 1000 cases every quarter. I remember finding myself in the first quarter review meeting and wondering, along with our Sales Head Daulat and Product Manager Geeta Sethi, why we could not achieve even such a paltry target in spite of our national distribution and Odomos being an established brand.

As usual, the culprit appeared to be the strategy. It is a time honoured tradition in the industry to blame the strategy when the targets are not met. I heard the usual ones - the product is not up-to the mark, sales returns, poor word of mouth, price too high, less advertising, aggressive competition etc. But such logical discussions frequently go nowhere. We were stuck in the meeting.

That is when I tried a different approach. I said to the group that - if any of the four regional managers came forward and voluntarily took an "astronomical" target of 10000 cases for just one region - I would go all out and "do anything" to support him. The least expected regional manager - Manian from south - came forward hesitatingly and said he would try and do 8000 cases in his region in the remaining three quarters. All that he asked was 2% scheme for a few months as an "extra". It turned out to be far less than I had feared he would ask for. I sanctioned it on the spot.

Believe it or not, by year end he had done 6000 cases - when all other three regions - together - struggled to do 2000 cases. The effect of this unusual and unexpected achievement was electric in the annual conference. Manian became our Roger Bannister and lit the way for the rest to follow. Within a year we had crossed 25000 cases in 1992. There was a new optimism about this product in the sales force. Geeta Sethi was ecstatic and wrote in her annual plan how the "test market" in South India was successful and provided us with a "new successful strategy" for growth.

But, from my perspective, facts were different. 2% scheme was not a strategy at all because we could have done it at any time for any region. Did 2% produce the results? No. It was Manians devotion and commitment to the strategy!! I am clear we could not have produced results and discovered how good our strategy really was - had it not been for him! We created the torch but he lit it and went around showing the light to all of us.

All that I can say is that, for any given strategy, if I had the option of fielding my strategy in Market 1 where the analysis suggests there is maximum potential - and in Market 2 where the team is very keen on implementing the strategy - I would not let the analysis eclipse the heart and I will choose Market 2 first. Because then the team in Market 2 would "Bannister" my strategy and hopefully other teams would take their cue from this winning team and make us succeed nationally.

What do you think? What is your take? Brickbats? Applause? Comments? New viewpoints?
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