Beware the Strategy Trap(s)

strategy trapA nice short post over on Farnam Street today highlights the various traps that people and companies can find themselves in when they begin looking at strategy and strategic planning.  The article, titled “Six Strategy Traps“, highlights a passage from a great book on strategy by Roger Martin and A. G. Lafley titled “Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works.”

I’ve read the book and enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the particular passage that the author at Farnam Street highlighted in their post regarding the strategy ‘traps’.  I won’t copy/paste it here (jump over and read it verbatim) but I did want to highlight the ‘traps’ and talk a bit about them.

The “Do it All Strategy”, “Something for Everyone Strategy” and the “Waterloo Strategy”

These three ‘traps’ are very similar in my mind. Many companies (and people) think that if they broaden their focus and try to make their offerings as broad as possible, they’ll bring more clients through the sales funnel and make more revenue. The problem with this approach is that if you aren’t able to focus (and you aren’t letting your teams focus), you’ll rarely be the leader in anything. Additionally, you’ll end up disappointing many of your clients because they’ll receive a product or service offering that is sub-par.

The “Don Quixote Strategy”

This is a dangerous strategy for any organization. It involves choosing the biggest and ‘best’ competitor and trying to knock them out of first place by competing head to head.  While this strategy may appeal to the ego’s of many people, it is generally a terrible strategy for most companies.  Where it does make sense is if you have a game-changing technology or service offering…but how many of those come along every year?

The “Program of the Month Strategy”

This is one that I’m sure everyone in the IT world has seen at one point in their career.  This is the strategy trap that many CIO’s (and CMO’s?) fall into while chasing the latest and greatest technology and/or platform. This type strategy never works because you never give your team a chance to actually make the last one a viable strategy. This trap does nothing but keep people busy doing semi-important work but never really focused on the long-term work that needs to happen to make a strategy really work.

The “Dreams that Never Come True Strategy”

This trap is one of the most damaging ones to any organization. Companies can fall into this trap by always talking about a strategy and/or strategic plan but never actually putting the plan into action. Sure, they may think they are putting it into action but in most instances, they really never do.  I’ve seen this one time and time again in companies…and those companies always fail because they can never marry the strategy with the execution necessary to make it happen.

Beware the Strategy Trap(s)

These traps are very good ones that I’ve seen many people / companies fall victim to a number of times. There’s no perfect strategy nor a is there a ‘recipe’ for a good strategy since each company’s objectives and goals are different.

What strategy traps can you think of or have you seen in practice during your career?