Years ago I launched, and then ran, an FM radio station in Melbourne.

The time-frame to get to air was so impossibly short that I jettisoned all efforts to innovate. Fortunately, there were stations similar to what I was launching in Melbourne in other big cities in Australia. So, with their permission, I copied the best bits of each of those, and we went to air.

That whole experience taught me three important lessons about strategy.

I had launched something in Melbourne without the luxury of having had a single original thought.

If we are honest, most ideas aren’t new.

Most new initiatives we implement are a hybrid of other things we have seen, heard and tried before. Most strategy isn’t new.

A very wise man once said: There is nothing new under the sun.

However, what we created was new to people who lived in Melbourne. They had heard nothing like it before and they loved it. Thousands told us so. Good strategy is transferable.

Unfortunately, my third lesson wasn’t quite as uplifting.

I had replicated the on-air sound of radio stations that in some cases had been broadcasting for more than a decade. I also knew our format would work because it addressed a noticeable gap in the Melbourne FM music station market. I used identical IT systems for the on-air play-out systems and for our administration and structured the radio station the same way the others did. I employed similarly competent people. I even used the same Position Descriptions the other stations used.

In other words, I dropped a carbon copy of those other radio stations into Melbourne.

About 12 months after we were on air, a CEO from one of those other radio stations came to visit. He had been doing quite a bit of driving during his stay in Melbourne and had a lot of time to listen to the station. I asked him what he thought.

He said everything was technically correct, but his honest assessment was that the station lacked a bit of its own personality. I knew he was right. What was happening internally – the building of team and culture – was reflecting externally. It was subtle, but noticeable.

Strategy is so often the easy part. Deciding what to do, and why wasn’t difficult.

Implementation of strategy is by far the hardest part.

For my remaining two years in that role I worked more than anything on building the team.  It took those years for our people, processes and systems to begin to work well together. Light FM taught me that you can have all of the component pieces in place, and the best strategy in the world, but you are still at the starting line.

Business can only move at the pace that its culture enables. We need good strategy. But so often that is the easy part.

This article was originally published on Jeff Miller’s LinkedIn as Strategy is Often the Easy Part 


Jeff Miller is an experienced Chief Executive Officer, business strategist and communications specialist. Jeff has led organisations for over 20 years and enjoys writing about his experiences, both good and bad.  He loves helping people, and organisations, achieve their full potential.