Detail vs Complexity and The War on Quick Wins

If you rely on cheap, fast, or easy solutions to get ahead, you will not win. There’s a prevailing bias that any long strategic process must be needlessly complex, and should be simplified and made quicker for the client. This is justified by the idea that “time is money”, despite the fact that money is the return on smart time investments. Long-term success requires a short-term sacrifice of time, money, or effort. There’s no way around this. If you choose the easy path now, you will only pay for it later.

I spent months rebuilding my strategy process after realising the standard industry process is wildly oversimplified. The danger is that the workshops feel productive to the client, and their final strategy document appears to be thorough, but as time passes they will struggle to implement their plan or obtain significant results.

Many strategists fail to realise that detail and complexity are not the same thing. Detail is fundamental to success, whereas complexity is surplus detail that doesn’t make an impact. Oversimplification of the strategy process tends to eliminate fundamental detail, not surplus. Strategists cut seemingly ineffective parts out of their process when they actually need to go deeper into them. The lack of depth is the only reason they are ineffective.

A strategy that will help you to achieve long-term success can not be formulated in a single workshop lasting only a few hours. That would be highly convenient, but it’s simply not enough. When done properly, strategy is an inherently time-consuming and thought-demanding task. The problem is not that it’s “too much effort” or “takes too long”, but rather people’s low frustration tolerance for things that are long and laborious.

Paying for a two hour strategy workshop is like taking steroids to win a race. It’s a quick fix for a quick win, but it will never make you the world’s best runner. People don’t achieve great things without putting the hours in. It’s important to understand that quick wins have a short lifetime, they don’t compound.

Having learned that success must be planned for in granular detail, my new strategy process is more in depth than it used to be. Perhaps that sounds daunting, but there are a number of ways I make the process easier for clients. My job is to give you clarity and help you get results, not to overwhelm you.


Shifting your mindset

The hard truth is, if you aren’t prepared to make sacrifices, you won’t get very far. If you won’t commit time, money, or effort to developing a thorough strategy for your business, what is the likelihood you’ll make those same sacrifices to implement it? The way you do one thing tends to be the way you do everything, so think carefully the next time you’re tempted by a quick win. 

Cheap, fast, and easy fuels low frustration tolerance. It will serve you well to overcome your desire for instant reward, and crave delayed gratification instead. Most people aren’t prepared to make a sacrifice now for a big win later on, but long-term competitive advantage is gained by doing what most people won’t do. Make the most of this.