22 February 2023 |

Avoid the “Planning Trap”


In 2012, while AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint were PLANNING their new phone discounts, T-Mobile decided to change things up behind the leadership of their new CEO John Legere. So they launched their Uncarrier STRATEGY.

Most companies and leaders do a lot of planning because it is comfortable. While in planning mode, you control the costs and have predictable outcomes. For example, AT&T and Verizon had a pretty good idea of exactly how many new customers they would acquire every time they did a free phone promotion around the holidays.

They weren’t really playing to win. They were playing to play. And they were both making so much money that it felt like they had already won.

But T-Mobile was losing customers every quarter. The way the game was being played wasn’t working for them.

So instead of continuing to play a game they were losing, they decided to change the rules.

At the time, all the cell phone service providers were exactly the same. You would get a phone for free as part of a two-year contract to stay with the same company. The plans generally included a limited amount of data, minutes, and messages. And you had to keep the same phone for two years until your contract was up and your carrier would give you another deal.

People hated it all.

“I can summarize how I succeed as a leader: Listen to your employees, listen to your customers, shut the f*** up, and do what they tell you.” John Legere once famously said.

T-Mobile’s strategy was to change the wireless industry forever by attacking one customer pain point at a time. They became the carrier of the people by letting people trade in their phones more often, letting people stream unlimited music and video, and lowering the overall cost of phone bills.

Making less money per customer is risky when you are already struggling financially.

“Making changes while being uncertain of the future isn’t being a bad manager. It’s being a great leader. Because you are giving your team a chance to do something great.” – Roger Martin

This strategy was incredibly successful and led to T-Mobile eating up market share.

It’s important for you to avoid the “Planning Trap” and ensure your company or organization has a strategy in place to remain competitive. 

Don’t play to play. Play to win.

It’s also important for your team to understand the difference between strategies, plans, and tactics because it will help you eliminate confusion. As a leader, clarity is crucial.

Every strategy needs plans, and every plan needs tactics.

Use these definitions to help your team understand how they are different:

  • Strategy: Your overall approach to achieving a long-term goal or objective. Your strategy should be based on a deep understanding of your business, your market, and your competitive landscape.
  • Plan: A specific outline of the steps you will take to execute your strategy. Your plan should include details about timelines, budgets, resources, and specific actions that need to be taken.
  • Tactic: A specific action or technique that you will use to implement your plan. Tactics are the individual steps that make up your plan and help you achieve your overall strategy.

When you have a clear strategy in place, you can create a plan that is aligned with that strategy. And when you have a plan, you can break it down into specific tactics that will help you execute that plan.

Here are some action items that can help you incorporate these concepts into your business:

  1. Start with your strategy. What are your long-term goals for your business? What is your unique value proposition? Who is your target market? 
  2. Create a plan. Once you have a clear strategy in place, you can start to create a plan that outlines the specific steps you need to take to achieve your goals. This plan should be specific, measurable, and actionable.
  3. Identify tactics. With your plan in place, you can identify specific tactics that will help you execute on that plan. These could include things like launching a new marketing campaign, improving your product, or hiring new team members.
  4. Review and adjust. It’s important to regularly review your strategy, plan, and tactics to make sure they are still aligned with your business goals. As your business evolves, you may need to make adjustments to your strategy and plan to ensure that you’re on the right track.

Remember, having a clear strategy, plan, and tactics in place can help you make better decisions for your business and stay focused on your long-term goals. So take some time to define your strategy, create a plan, and identify specific tactics that will help you achieve your goals.