seems that everyone is talking about the importance of “strategy” and being
more “strategic.” Companies hold "strategic" planning sessions and “retreats”–which seems like a poor choice of
words when we are actually trying to move forward. They announce their "strategic" objectives, and hire "strategic" salespeople who
are charged with leading their most "strategic" accounts. They prepare "strategic" account plans as
guides for maximizing the level of business with "strategic" customers. They try to teach their program
managers to be more "strategic" and less “tactical” as though one is suddenly far better than
the other. They “strategize” about
how to innovate, or solve pressing problems, or address promising opportunities. "Strategy," it seems, has become a hot
new word for doing the right things.
Yet most companies and organizations are relatively clueless when it
comes to understanding strategy and crafting a living, breathing, and evolving guide to
future success. Because much of
what is sold as strategy is really little more than a set of hopes, dreams,
numbers (or rabbits) pulled out of a hat, guesses, prayers, or goals. But not strategy. How many times have you heard a
corporate leader announce that “our strategy is to double in size in the next five
years”? That’s great, but it’s not really a strategy. Or that “our strategy is to buy undervalued companies.” That's possible, but still not a
strategy. Or that “we will
leverage our strengths to create new excitement in the marketplace.” It’s catchy, and it sure beats leveraging our weaknesses. But it's still not much to hang your hat on. And on the other side of the strategy continuum, there are companies that commit to exhaustive strategic planning processes and analysis that more often than not lead to frustration, confusion,
and a whole lot of dead trees.
So let’s make "strategy" plain, simple, and actionable. Because it’s really about answering
five basic questions:
1. Who are our customers and what are their essential
needs? (And who aren’t our customers?)
2. What do we offer that really meets their needs? i.e., What products,
services, and/or solutions do we offer? (And what things don’t we offer?)
3. What sets us apart from everyone else in meeting their
needs? i.e., What is the
unique value proposition that makes us truly remarkable? (And what things are simply the adult daily vitamin requirement?)
4. How do we operate with consistent skill, conviction,
and results? i.e., What
is our business model for getting the right things done brilliantly?
5. When do we get everything done? i.e., How do we “stage” our actions to achieve maximum value and impact?
We win in business by making the right choices, and daring to provide
the most compelling value to the most appropriate customers. Not by putting a giant number on the
wall. Is it time to take a fresh
and more straightforward look at your strategy?