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I had a hard time deciding what to title this post. The subject was clear. This post would be about the balance between strategic positioning work and tactical activities. That is, the balance between driving enterprise value over the long run and enabling 90-day results. The word ‘balance’ is what threw me. Balance implies equality, but in a quarterly culture that favors short-term over long-term, sales and marketing activities are anything but balanced. Imbalance more accurately reflects the weighted state in which organizations operate today.

The reality is that this balancing act is a classic case of what Bob Young, founder of Red Hat, referred to as ‘the tyranny of or.’ It’s not a matter of choosing one over the other. You need to do both. But how? Doing both, and getting clear on how to do just that, is easier said than done. Because when the going gets tough, any long-term, value-creation activity falls prey to activities seen to induce immediate results.
You know the scenarios.
– Profits are off. Costs need to be trimmed. What gets cut first? Any uncommitted marketing expenses, which usually means activities that reach beyond 90 days.
– The pipeline is weak. What happens? Anything not driving leads is deemed to be off-strategy/purpose.
– The quarter is at risk. What’s next? A crisis is sounded and the entire company focuses on uncovering immediate opportunities.
This might work for a quarter or two or three, but sooner or later, you will be in a permanently weakened position, one where profits will be at risk, the pipeline will be soft, and sources of revenue will be the same usual suspects.
All good things take time to produce meaningful, sustainable results. Exercise is a classic example. Investing is another. So too is the proven strategy of positioning an enterprise to win over the long-term.
How should companies think about, plan for, and execute a strategy to balance short-term requirements with the absolute upside of long-term value creation? That’s another post.


  1. James says:

    This is the holy grail. Companies – especially technology companies – really suffer from the tyranny of or in terms of marketing mix. If I've heard one CEO say it, I've heard a dozen: We don't have time to build awareness, we need leads!


  2. Tom says:

    James, you're so right. That refrain plays loudly in the hallways of nearly every company in the hi tech space. It's the rare few that understand the pipeline will eventually dry up if you don't lay the groundwork for the future, too.


  3. Jim Mancuso says:

    The syndrome you describe is not only for crisis mode. It also describes a state of distraction some refer to as “always picking up the bright shiny penny.” It’s intermingled with thoughts from your other blog entries, namely, “How does one stay focused on all the things that really matter?” It is easy to shift and move to address the thing that interests you most at that moment, but takes your eye off the ball of other things that really matter as well.

  4. Tom Butta says:

    Jim, you make a great point. The distractions of either focusing on what's new or remaining in the comfort zone of what's known only serve to limit progress.

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