When I want a new shirt or suit I go to my favourite shop, try on a couple of items, and buy one of them.

When my wife wants a new skirt or outfit she starts by spending a couple of hours surfing the web for ideas, flicking through a few magazines and getting hold of some home-shopping fashion catalogues. She will then go into town and visit at least half-a-dozen stores. In each store she will consider and quickly touch at least 75% of the items on display, whether or not they relate to what she wants to buy. At this stage she may, or may not, try something on. Back home, she will revisit the web, the catalogues and the magazines, and may call a friend for her thoughts. A few days later she will go back into town, visit the same stores – and possibly some more – and try on a dozen or so items. If she buys one item she will definitely buy at least one more, and when she returns home again she may also order something on-line. When she has all the ‘contenders’ in place she will try them on again, spending 30-60 minutes considering each one in a mirror. She will then come down and ask me for my thoughts (“That’s nice” is my stock response which, amazingly, doesn’t always go down that well). At that point she may decide to return all the items, select one but wait for it to become available in the next sale (and therefore return all the items) or keep one (and return two of the items). The purchasing process may take 3 months or more.

Effective strategy development is much more like my wife’s shopping approach than my own. Even if you have a clear view of what you’re trying to achieve, you should be trying different routes to achieving your goals, finding out what works and what doesn’t, and being prepared to refine, refresh and change your implementation plans and activities. It’s about rapid action, immediate learning and staying flexible.

It may be tempting to grab and go, but you’re far more likely to achieve breakthrough success if you take the time and effort to understand and pursue what really works.

© Stuart Cross 2010. All rights reserved.