As business owners, we must wrangle our long-term goals and guide them safely into the corral if we want to succeed.
It’s called strategic management, and I promise “this here session here” – as Radar O’Reilly would say – will be interesting.
Howzabout (I sometimes make up words) this as our example?
Strategically expanding deep sea exploration
while throwing in the RMS Titanic for good measure.
Oh, yeah. The ultimate.
And a wwhhoollee different direction than you figured from my headline … right?! ;->
Plea to the Google gods
This is a severely truncated version of research from my project management master’s program.
When you find my entire document online, please don’t penalize me and wipe
KathieYork.com off the face of the Internet.
Note to readers
I’ve removed the references, timelines, footnotes, and bibliographical data.
Please contact me if there’s a particular item where you’d like the reference info.
“What the heck is strategic management?”
It’s about looking down the road to our goals and building the steps to reach them.
It’s about being proactive in leadership.
And it’s about taking small, purposeful steps to get where we want to be.
(Sort of like a toddler, but with wwaayy more responsibility.)
We can’t just sit around and wait for ‘it’ to happen … whatever ‘it’ may be.
The fun part
Figuring out the strategy is part of the fun.
Tech training and writing. Proofing. Editing.
This is my world. But, I ask myself the same questions you do:
What could I do to stand out in my industry?
Was there a way to re-energize my website’s Services page?
How could I offer something unique?
No boredom factor, please
I revisited my project management program for a little inspiration.
When I first noticed this course in the curriculum, my reaction was, “S-n-o-r-e.”
After all, The First Rule of Acquisi- (Oops. Sorry. Star Trek. Totally different thing.) … er …
… The First Rule of Boring Courses is:
“2.5 pound textbooks [yes, I weighed it] are never a good sign.”
I was stuck with the class for three months.
Hmmm. Had to think FAST!
My first strategic move was to find a topic that would:
1. Not bore the professor, as I knew every other student would.
2. Provide weeks of interesting tunneling and burrowing as I discovered data.
I’m not too crazy about boredom either.
Plus, word had gotten around to the university staff:
“There’s a tech writer in this cohort. Her papers are interesting.”
(There’s some added pressure for ya, but … hey!)
The non-snooze-worthy answer
Although much of the step-by-step process is missing from this shortened version of my research, here’s where we’re headed:
We will visit Robert Ballard’s Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution team in its furthering of underwater research, as well as take a peek at a little-known movie production unit: Lightstorm Entertainment.
While the Lightstorm name may be unfamiliar, the CEO is not: James Cameron of Titanic movie fame.
I was wrong
My hypothesis about Ballard and Cameron: their interest in the RMS Titanic was based on the money to be made by retrieving artifacts from the ship (shudder).
Thankfully, I was wrong.
Both men viewed the site as sacrosanct, and neither team desecrated it.
Documenting the resting place
The two people most responsible for showing us the sunken RMS Titanic began their fascination with the ocean many years – and thousands of miles – apart.
Wanting to further deep sea exploration, Mr. Ballard knew investors might need motivation to fund a project.
“I felt the magic of the lost ship would help attract funding that would enable me to make a major step forward in underwater research and technology.” – Robert Ballard
The TV world of the late 1960s/early ’70s showed Jacques Cousteau exploring the deep ocean.
Although he was landlocked in Ontario, Canada, James Cameron decided ocean exploration was his future and began taking steps to secure the journey.
Notice I say he ‘… began taking steps.’
This is the key to our topic.
One strategic step at a time, working toward our goals.
By early 2010, Cameron had spent about 3,000 hours under water, 500 of them in submersibles (including the Titanic excursions).
Thinking outside the box
Remember my questions as I started my research:
“What could I do to stand out …?”
“How could I offer something unique?”
Ballard and Cameron understood the benefits of strategically
thinking-outside-the-box to improve a product or repurpose a business tool.
The submersible (‘Improve’)
Ballard’s group replaced mini sub Alvin’s hull with a titanium alloy, allowing dives to twice its original max depth.
With the new capability, Alvin was the only submersible (at that time) certified to carry people to the Titanic.
Investors realized the built-in fundraising possibilities … and said, “Yes.”
The camera (‘Repurpose’)
“[The] high definition 3D camera was developed for a completely other project and we just realized that applying it to this [the Titanic] environment would work really well.” – James Cameron
Filming – instead of still photography mosaics (does anyone else remember those?) – changed everything about viewing the ship.
The results were breathtaking.
As Ballard and Cameron did so masterfully, what can we improve or repurpose to help us expand strategically in our industries?
For you …
Perhaps alterations will reinvigorate your profession:
• Can you implement a more compassionate way to run an MRI?
• Is there a new, jaw-dropping way to use X? (Do you even need X?)
• Could your theory revolutionize your industry?
For me …
‘Improve’ was my tactic, and this led to a new division for Kathie York Proofing: strategic website assessments (which I call ‘proofing on steroids’ ;->).
I began by asking, “How can I help clients …”:
• Optimize their websites and enhance SEO?
• Tighten coding to attract new customers?
• Make their visible text grab more attention?
The strategy begins here … with 6 words
For all the questions in the previous section, there’s one simple answer:
“I don’t know. Let’s find out.”
Ballard and Cameron took their varied experience and dovetailed it into incredible ‘upsells.’
And they used strategic management principles to get there.
We can, too.
Let’s put on our strategic management hats … and go for it!
Join the Conversation: Tell us if you
- Are working on a strategic plan, and where you find the most obstacles.
- Think all this work isn’t worth the effort, and what you’re doing instead.
- Wonder how you’ll ever get it all done … but will try strategic planning!
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Let’s learn from each other!