People Strategy: It’s a BFD

It’s a curious thing.

So many organizations place an enormous emphasis on business strategy, and rightly so. No one’s going to argue that that shouldn’t be the case. But the weird thing is that many of those same organizations don’t have a coherent and meaningful people strategy. So while they may have a meticulous plan in place to increase profitability or whatever else, their people are almost an afterthought.

What a huge mistake.

If your business strategy doesn’t include a people strategy, you’re just simply not going to be as good as you could be. I mean, you wouldn’t wing it with other parts of your strategic plan, would you? So why would you do that with something as important as the very people that make your organization go?

Some of the number-bots call me a heretic whenever I start talking like this, and that’s fine. I love them anyway. But here’s the thing—why not build your business around people? Without people, you’d have no clients and you’d have no employees. People are kind of a big deal. As acclaimed business leader Michael Scott would say, they’re a BFD.

Too often what happens is we leave the “people stuff” to HR and call it a day. We do some token employee engagement stuff, but nothing terribly meaningful. I mean, you pay them, right? Isn’t that enough? (The answer is no, by the way.)

But listen—people drive your business, whether you’re in customer service or tech. Why any organization would wing such a critical part of their strategy is beyond me.

Like I said, it’s a curious thing.

14 thoughts on “People Strategy: It’s a BFD

    • Right you are, Sean. And training and development is just part of a much larger people strategy, or at least it should be.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Right on Matt! Without a people strategy, your business strategy will look great on paper, maybe you’ll even make some short-term gains… but if you want to make it in the long haul, it’s about mobilizing your people to carry through the strategy. Any business strategy must also be “implement-able”. Only through your people can you implement it successfully. Thanks for a great post!

    • Thanks, Pam! I love your emphasis on “mobilizing your people.” A lot of folks talk a good game about empowering their employees, but it takes an intentional, consistent effort to actually do that.

      Thanks again!

  • Hi Matt

    Your post reminds me of an ad that screened frequently in Canada many years ago (I moved from Toronto to Dunedin, New Zealand in 1993). It was for Dofasco, a large Hamilton, Ontario Steel company. The slogan was “Our product is steel. Our strength is people”. I just did a search and see that the slogan dates from 1970 and may still be in use ( I remember thinking at the time that this was a pretty cleaver slogan, but that it was highly unlikely to be true.

    Listening to Radio New Zealand yesterday (Saturday April 14), I caught an interview with Corporate feel-good consultant, Keith Yamashita, about “leadership and design” ( He talked about corporate culture at Apple and IBM, glossing over the pressure-cooker environment and bullying at Apple, and suggesting that IBM employees were proud to describe themselves as “IBMers”, because it was such an employee-friendly place to work. Yamashita should get the “Best Feel Good Spin Doctor and Corporate Apologist” award from Corporate America. They would have a difficult job deciding who to award it to, as there are oh so many excellent and deserving candidates!


    Mark McGuire
    Twitter: @mark_mcguire

    • Thanks for chiming in, Mark! Your post is a good reminder about how necessary it is for organizations to either embrace the idea of healthy culture or not to; but either way, don’t feed us a line of bull about it. If people are the most important thing, then be intentional and authentic about it. And if they aren’t…well…don’t be disingenuous and tell us that they are. You’re spot on.

  • What’s a “people strategy”? What does it look like? How do you know a good people strategy from a bad people strategy?

    • Appreciate you stopping by, Ron. As you know, I’m a big fan of your work. (As marketing blogs go, Ron’s is at the top of my list:

      To me, a “people strategy” basically encompasses all the human touch points within an organization. A good people strategy, in my estimation, is one that provides a comprehensive and coherent understanding of an organization’s attitude and policies toward their folks. For some reason, it seems a lot of orgs just sort of want to skate by, doing just enough to stay afloat in regards to HR, training, leadership development, culture, employee engagement, and so on. They don’t have a proactive plan in place. They just sort of take a cookie-cutter approach to their human systems and hope for the best. They only address employee engagement when they think they have a problem with it. They only look into leadership development when they realize their management team has big issues. And so it goes…

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  • Thank you for your contribution! So many companies out there spend an incredible amount of money to plan “the making of money” itself and forget the paramount tool for achieving it: motivating their own crowd of employees! A business plan without a “people centric” plan is a waste of money and a waste of a long term strategy! Thank you for your well written article.

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