Strategies Not Shinies

I’ve recently had the pleasure of engaging with a local campaign group to re-open The Ivanhoe Line – a 30 mile rail track that has only been used for freight services for the last 50 years or so.

The project is exciting in many ways – it’s very credible (the line is already there), it’s environmentally beneficial, and it will make a very tangible impact on a community at the heart of England.

What is particularly exciting for me is that the group has two characteristics that radically improve the chance of success.

  1. Firstly they have a very clear goal – opening a particular stretch of track to passenger travel. This may seem obvious, but there are so many additional things they could include – adding more stations, linking into a whole mass transit system including buses, cycleways, taxis etc. All of these are of course important, but importantly they are outside of scope for the group. How many times have you got distracted by “shinies” – nice to haves that can cause such a distraction they make your project fail?
  2. Secondly they are building a strategy to reach the goal. Now when mention the word “strategy” eyes often glaze over or people claim to be “on it already”, when actually it is anything but. Good strategy involves the interaction of multiple lines of operation – how does production milestone reflect within your PR programme? How does a growth in your workforce match turnover without creating massive cashflow issues? And crucially, how does the chosen strategy dovetail with the people you have to deliver it? In the campaigning group, everyone is a volunteer – this means the strategy will be radically different to that of a public sector body or private company.

So what are your goals, and what strategy do you have to support them? Are they written down or do you just wing it everyday? Be honest with yourself and maybe take some time out to think about it.

Incidentally, if you are in the UK midlands, or just like trains, you might want to hook up with CRIL – the campaign to re-open the Ivanhoe Line. They’re on Facebook here: and there’s a video below.