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July 22, 2019

Who Should Bat Last?

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Hold out your money. Speak your soup order in a loud, clear voice. Step to the left and pick up your soup.

Step to the left too early…NO SOUP FOR YOU!
Too slow with the money…NO SOUP FOR YOU!

The notorious Soup Nazi in the Seinfeld show cares about proper sequencing. Although the soup Nazi example is trivial and light-hearted much of life and work sequencing is not.

Order Matters
If getting the order right didn’t matter, air traffic controllers wouldn’t be concerned about which airplane landed when. If getting the order right didn’t matter, baseball managers wouldn’t care who hit in the clean-up spot and who hit ninth. If getting the order right didn’t matter, the chef wouldn’t pay attention to when he put the dishes in the oven so that they all arrive at your table hot.

You get the picture. Order does matter.

In organizational strategy, order is one of the often-overlooked qualities that can spell the difference between a W and an L. Strategic sequencing is simply the arranging of items in a specific order for a specific purpose—what goes first, second, third, and so on.

And more often than not stuff does not self-sequence automatically. That is the job of the leader.

Order as a Competitive Advantage
The purpose of good sequencing is to gain an advantage.

While bad sequencing leads to inefficiencies, redundancy, and guesswork, good sequencing can help build on prior momentum. It can ensure that your initiative gets off to a fast start. It can allow you to seamlessly slide into the larger stampede of events.

The owner of a restaurant in New Orleans should realize that the Mardi Gras period is going to mean a spike in reservations.

She’ll be wise to keep the carnival season in mind as she plans the timing of such things as rolling out a new promotion, updating the website, hiring additional staff, ordering supplies, scheduling vacations, and more. None of this is minor. If she gets the timing or
 the order wrong on one or more of these items, it could turn Fat Tuesday into Scrawny Tuesday for her business.

Payoff of Sequencing Done Well

  • Sequencing the steps of your strategy well can make your operation more efficient. What happens if the two-by-fours haven’t shown up at the building site when the framers—who are on your payroll—are scheduled and ready to swing a hammer?
  • Sequencing can maintain productivity. If the TSA isn’t staffing the checkpoints properly for peak travel times, the security line is going to stretch all the way back to the Cinnabon shop.
  • Sequencing can anticipate if-this-then-that outcomes. A city planning team tasked with rejuvenating downtown might choose to focus first on upgrading the shopping district and only later expand the public transit system to handle the increased load of travelers.

To sequence well, step back and take a wide-
angle view of your business or nonprofit. Identify 
the needle-moving choices that trigger other choices. Don’t forget that pausing can be one part of your sequencing order that can help align you with smart timing. For more on sequencing and a helpful map to modern strategy, see my short book Strategy 3.0 – A Guide for Entrepreneurs, Millennials, Frustrated 5-Year Planners and Anyone Else Searching For Fast, Focused and Agile Strategy.

Getting clarity on what you want to do is crucial for your strategy. But setting the parts of your strategy into motion at the right time and in the right order may be even more crucial. Don’t overlook it.

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