What’s your strategy?

Strategy & ImplementationStrategy.

That one word can send shudders through many folks.  That one word has made millions and millions for consulting companies and consultants.

Can you answer the question “what’s your strategy?”  Can everyone within your organization?

If I were to talk to the front-line workers in your organization and ask them “what’s your strategy?”, will they just smile and say they don’t really know?

Most people I’ve talked to over my career will point me to the mission or vision statements as proof that they have a strategy….but very few have been able to articulate the organizational strategy clearly.

Why is that?

Is it because consultants and senior leadership have turned Strategy into a something inaccessible to the common front-line worker?  Is it because an organization’s strategy isn’t well communicated?

Could be.  Both of those issues often have something to do with it..  But the biggest issue that I’ve found is that people just don’t know how to implement strategy.

Before I continue….let’s take a quick look at what strategy  is.  Oh…also…this is a rather long post so bear with me.

What is Strategy?

BusinessDictionary.com defines strategy as:

Approach to future that involves (1) examination of the current and anticipated factors associated with customers and competitors (external environment) and the firm itself (internal environment), (2) envisioning a new or effective role for the firm in a creative manner, and (3) aligning policies, practices, and resources to realize that vision.

Not a bad definition.  Actually…it’s a pretty good one.  It covers the creation of a strategy and implementing it.

But like everything else in life, its easy to read a definition and think you ‘get it’ but much harder to actually ‘do it’.

So…we have a definition of strategy.  Now what?

Time to develop a strategy.

Strategy Creation

Developing a strategic plan isn’t easy….and I’m not about to claim that I’m an expert at it. That said, there are some basics approaches to strategy development.

First thing you have to do?  Step away from the burning fires and think. Think about where your organization needs to be in the future.  Then…think about where your organization wants to be in the future.  Lastly, think about your organizational capabilities.  Will they get you where you need to be?  How about where you want to be?

If where you want to be, or need to be, can’t be reached with your current organization’s people, skill sets and technology, its time to revisit your organization.

You can’t reach your strategic goal if your organizational alignment isn’t correct.  Seth Godin says that alignment is really nothing more than “getting your team in alignment (having their job match their tools match their mission).” I tend to agree with Seth on this one.

If you don’t have the ability to reach your strategic objective today but you are sure your goal is where you need to be…then you need to revisit your current organization.

Implementing Your Strategy

So…you know where you need to be.  You know where you want to be.  Now you have to build your plan to actually get there.

This is where most of us fail because it just isn’t that clear how to go about implementing implementing a strategy.

Some companies pay millions of dollars for a strategic plan to be developed…and then do very little with that plan. Some companies pay millions to a consulting company to have their strategic plan implemented. Some succeed and some don’t.

Strategy implementation is tough because sometimes implementation requires hard choices.  And

To do it right requires an organization to step back and look at their organizational abilities.  Can you reach your objectives with your current staffing?  If not, what needs to change?

What’s Your Strategy?

Let’s go back to the original premise of this article.  What is your strategy?  Can you answer that question clearly?

Is your strategy to “build your brand”?  If so, that isn’t a strategy.

Is your strategy to “be the #1 IT consulting company in the world”?  Might be a good vision but where’s the plan behind that vision?

To be honest…it really doesn’t matter what your strategy is.  If you don’t have a plan to reach the strategic goals, your strategic goals are nothing more than a bunch of words on paper.

THAT is the reason most people within an organization cannot clearly articulate your strategy.

Sure…they may understand all the ‘words’ but they don’t understand how they play a role in that strategic plan nor how the organization will ever reach the goals stated in said plan.

Example Time – You own an American Football Team

I’ve used this example before – see Competitive Advantage – The Human Capital approach.

You own an American Football Team.  Your goal is to be the next ‘dynasty’ and win 5 super bowls in the next 10 years…something very few football teams have done.

So…you develop a strategic plan to get you there.  What is your strategy?  Is it to ‘win 5 super bowls in 10 years’?

Better not be.  While that’s your goal, it isn’t your strategy.

What is your strategy? Wouldn’t it depending on what your team looks like today doesn’t it?

Do you have the right coach? Right quarterback?  How about your offensive line?  Is your defense the first in the league…or last?

The answers to these questions will help you build your strategy.

If you have a great offense but a piss-poor defense, wouldn’t it be worth focusing on building your defense up to be one of the best in the league?

So…your strategy for the next 2 years is to build the best defense in the league….but how?  Via the Draft?  Trades with other teams? Free agents?

Do you have the money to pay for the new talent you need to acquire to build the best defense in the league?  If not, what trade-offs do you have to make to get the best defense? Do you need to get rid of a few star offensive players?  If so, will that affect the offensive production of your team?

How do you communicate your new strategy? Do you tell one or two people about your goal? Or…do you sit down with everyone involved with the football team clearly communicate what the goal is, why its important and how they can help achieve that goal? I’ve found you get more from approach #2.

Building a strategy isn’t easy for a football team owner/manager.  Lots of moving parts.  Lots of strategic and tactical thinking involved.

Conclusion

Building a strategic plan for any business will be done in the same manner as the football team above. You’ve got to think about your strategy and the tactics to get you there by Minding the Gap.

You’ve got to identify what your main goal or goals are and then figure out how to get there.   Once you identify them, communicate the goals and the plan to reach them in a way that makes sense and makes people feel as though they can help reach those goals.

Be realistic about those goals too.  You won’t be the #1 IT Consulting company in the world if you only deliver services to clients Jackson Mississippi.    You can strive to be the #1 IT Consulting company in Jackson…but the world might be a bit too much for you to bite off.

Next time I ask someone on your team “what’s your strategy”…will they be able to answer?

Comments

  1. Great summary of strategy. What are your thoughts about the positioning school of strategy?

    • Thanks David.

      Right now, I don't have any thoughts on the positioning school of strategy as I don't know much about it. I've read a bit but not enough to be able to speak intelligently about it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

      thanks for stopping by!

  2. Great write up on Strategy. I know people have different ways of defining their own personal Strategic Goals. Utilizing the process from Keith Ferrazzi to develop my personal strategy, Keith believes Strategic Goals should be Smart Goals, SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. In my opinion if you use these characteristics to of your Goals, and then setup sub-goals, to me the larger goals, the tactical planning is easier. I also believe, as your example illustrates, many people confuse mission/vision with strategic goals.

    As always, enjoyed it. – Jeff

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