Monthly Archives: September 2013

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Bell the Cat: Good Plan, But We Need a Playbook

There’s a well known fable that goes by a number of names- “Bell the Cat” is one of them.

“The fable concerns a group of mice who debate plans to nullify the threat of a marauding cat. One of them proposes placing a bell around its neck, so that they are warned of its approach. The plan is applauded by the others, until one mouse asks who will volunteer to place the bell on the cat.” (Wikipedia)

The origins of this fable are in question (Aesop is the going favorite), however the meaning or the lesson often refers to great plans that cannot be executed (so how does the bell get around the cat’s neck). The plan and the execution must obviously be in synch and achievable for a great idea to have any value.

Of course this concept is not new. In The Art of War, Sun Tzu said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

There’s also a classic article┬áby Jim Womack, founder and chairman of the Lean Enterprise Institute, that does a great job of discussing this issue in the development of LEI. In it, Womack identifies “Planning” as the easy part- it’s “Execution” that will get you. The article describes a four-part process for planning and execution- Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA), originated by W. Edwards Deming.

Nowhere is execution more critical than in Sales. In our Sustainable Business Growth blog post we discussed how we hired, prepared and then managed a newly recruited sales force and got Results. What we did not mention is the concept of the Playbook.

The Sales Playbook for us was literally a book that contained all the elements of planning and execution for the sales organization. Every sales and support team member had a Playbook that included the strategies and tactics, management processes, reporting, collateral materials… everything needed to be successful in their role.

But that was back in 1990. Today, our tools are much improved and communication is far more efficient. Presentations, proposal templates, collateral and all other materials can be stored in shared disk drives for easy access anywhere; CRM’s for pipeline management and reporting… The physical form of the Playbook may be different but the need to equip and manage the sales force using a complete and comprehensive Playbook remains the same. It is through the Playbook that “Execution” in the sales process is assured.

We talk a lot about Sales as a C-Level Priority- because it is.