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By Dr. Burt Smith April 14th, 2008

calculator_and_ruler.jpgBefore you think you’re reading some slang for a profane phrase used in instant messaging, allow me to explain!

WTGBRFDT stands for “What’s The Good Business Reason For Doing This?” It is a guiding principle that drives every action, every policy, and EVERY decision made by World Savings. This very interesting organization profiled in Less is More (before merging with Wachovia) and offers a very good piece of advice in any economic climate, but especially as we operate in a downturn.

Jennings dedicated a chapter to his concept of Guiding Principles in It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small, It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow. The argument was offered as an alternative to strategic planning in the world of high tech, where a strategy can become outdated before the ink on the paper on which it is printed has dried.   Having a set of guiding principles can effectively serve as “battle cries” that empower employees at every level and at least have a direction to help them as they make any decision. This is far more empowering and far less expensive than a typical strategic plan which may be long on detail but short on action.

Next time you find yourself saying, “We need a strategic plan…” think instead about exactly what you hope to accomplish. If your goal is to have a big, thick document that will likely never be read by you or anyone else, then a fully-developed strategic plan is exactly what you need. If, on the other hand, action is what you’re after, think about developing a set of guiding principles and stories that can become part of your corporate folklore and culture. You may find that the guiding principles lead to a more detailed strategic plan, and that’s OK because in that case, the detail is guided by the purpose of execution. Way too many times, however, strategic plans are written just because somebody says, “We need a strategic plan” and in most cases, the whole perceived need for a strategic plan comes from hearing a competitor or other organization has one. Nobody ever bothers to ask if the plan itself does any good. Battle cries in the form of guiding principles are literally, another story, however, and they’re worth taking a look at!

Yours could even be a unique “code” like WTGBRFDT, which is understood only by those who work inside your organization, but when heard in the marketplace spark interest and can be a neat brand signal or touch point for your brand that helps get your customers evangelizing for you!

Now go have some fun thinking about what guiding principles you want to see on the walls and hear shouted down the hallways of your organization!

Here’s a good one to get you started:

“I will never put my name on anything that does not have in it the best that is in me.” – John Deere.

Ed Adkins said -

While I agree with your sentiment concerning failed plans (most are written for no better reason than to have one), that doesn’t mean that all plans are useless, innovation-stifling roadblocks.

The problem that needs to be solved is how to go from a useful plan to implementation. I find it’s usually the lack of followup, and even the lack of flexibility that make plans sit around collecting dust.

Guiding principles are needed as well- I totally agree with you about that- they make decision-making a snap. Anyway, you bring up fantastic reasons why plans so often fail- I’ve just found that categorically dismissing strategic planning isn’t the answer- so much as fixing the process.

April 24, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

MyStrategicPlan/blog | Strategic Planning: Innovation Killer or Enabler? said -

[…] second, written by Dr. Burt Smith, titled WTGBRFDT?, says the following: Next time you find yourself saying,

April 24, 2008 @ 4:43 pm

Strategic Planning: Innovation Killer or Enabler? | MyStrategicPlan Resources said -

[…] second, written by Dr. Burt Smith, titled WTGBRFDT?, says the following: Next time you find yourself saying,

December 30, 2008 @ 4:58 pm

Mark Vice said -

I love it!

June 12, 2010 @ 4:01 pm