ImageI have had a number of my clients ask, “what is my captivation with strategies?”.  What sparks my interest is the sheer power of strategies.  Apply the right mix of experience, study and goal setting and you have magic.  Make it an exercise driven by ego, historical opinion and convoluted expectations the results will speak for themselves.

Nearly three decades ago, and four successful startups, I base what I am about to say on the results that I have personally felt.  Whether the enterprise was acquired, parted out (sold in pieces of intellectual property) or served as a catalyst of change the strategy was my God send time and time again.  I also learned that a man is not an island to have a strategy that has even the slightest chance for success requires many external inputs.  Whether these come from people or from studies or from even simple legitimacy tests it is an essential part of developing sound strategic thinking.

The Wall of Resistance

ImageThere are allot of reasons why barriers get created.  In the context of strategic thinking its the general impression that they have to be closely guarded secrets.  Normally this is the result of having shallow expectations.  Evidence of this is carried out when your competition operates with the opinion that they command the market and that your presence is inconsequential.  What they maybe don’t know is that your strategic positioning is exactly why you have chosen an approach which creates separation.  Separation is important to avoid comparison and to generate curiosity.  So while they go about thumping their chest and expounding on their invaluable virtues you are rapidly capturing market.  How can this happen?  Think about the cycle of inquiries from would-be clients.  They start out talking to the brand leaders (yes, some stop here because they only want to relate on the basis of brand equality of them vs. you) but soon discover that the fit may not be exactly right, the price may be a bit more than you view the value to be and honestly you are still left with far too many questions.

Strategy Value

ImageA strategy forces us to think, writing it down demands more questions and opportunities to be revealed.  The real objective behind a strategy is to achieve a goal and for most businesses that about revenue generation (benevolent institutions measure it slightly different with it based on social impact).  Temptation will want us to start talking about “how” we think this can be done before we have determined “what” we want to have happen.

The GIVEN

ImageIt is partial correct in thinking that history will shape the strategy illustration.  We can overlook past history, successes, failures and the key elements that precipitated the behavior.  HOWEVER, strategies are naturally flawed by human behavior.  The strategic team is high powered, ego driven, experienced and at times quite self-righteous.  You can’t and should not think that this can be abolished…. I assure you it can’t.  So what needs to be done is to channel this energy in such a way that it will produce excellence in results.  Some have tried to relate the strategy to outcome rewards and unfortunately a chaotic self-defeating environment gets created.  This energy needs to be directed, it needs a means by which that plausible consideration is generated and a means to reduce the over use of old policy to generate new outcomes.  Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over again and expecting different results” yet this has become a false belief that we in business make time and time again.

A Hammer Is Not A Screwdriver

ImageMy dad was a great man.  He taught me allot in many unknowing ways.  His love for tools and carpentry was beyond description but unfortunately his mastery was rudimentary at best.  What made his crude works so wonderful was the passion and ability to produce an outcome.  He learned from his mistakes, understood his limitations and was committed to producing despite his inability to achieve excellence.  Some might say he should have given up, others might suggest skill training and very few suggested that he should continue to enjoy his hobby.  I always think of my dad when he would say that any screw can be put into a piece of wood using a hammer but it unlikely that it can be removed with one.

Strategies have become allot like a hammer.  We bash objectives into the organization and force them into compliant submission.  Yet our ability to adjust and adapt to changing conditions sets us on a path that creates governance, compliance and achievement.

As mentioned earlier a strategy in the simplest sense is about achieve financial (or benevolence) performance.  Everything that the strategy involves works towards this overarching goal.  So what are the drivers that a strategy has.   Here is the secret sauce behind achieving this lead goal.

  1. Offerings
  2. Markets
  3. Customer Care (loyalty management)
  4. Infrastructure (supporting strategic initiatives)
  5. Social Contribution

Each thing we decide upon must address these five fundamental conditions.  If we decide on introducing an offering we must address the other four conditions.  If we focus on creating a relationship with a specific segment of the consumer society we need to invoke the other aspects as well, and so on.  To add reality to each of these five areas is where the elements of experience, opinion, analysis and even debate come into play.  Sequestered strategy development may be productive but is often challenged by the lack of objectivity.  Whether this be the result of egos, position dominance or simply being too close to everyday business dealings an objective and unbiased sounding board should not be overlooked.  No, this isn’t about pitching business this is about creating value benefit.  I learned all too well that great ideas in your mind aren’t necessarily the will of the market.  Thus the ability to generate revenues will fall short of expectations, even with a wonderful offering.

We mustn’t overlook risks, outside influences and inhibitors as we contemplate and develop strategies.  These will profoundly influence what gets moved into our goals and what remain back on the bucket list of potential future goal setting ideas.  For example, a specific offering might be ideal for a particular market but present regulations (or public sentiment about your company) may make the timing less than ideal.  While it might be viewed as ‘dead’ at this juncture it may be an area for future consideration (possibly after an aggressive publicity campaign) or simply the approach that is borne out in a tactic may be a safer albeit longer route that needs to be followed.

Not For Everyone?

ImageOver the last four decades I have deal with numerous companies in all shapes, sizes, and with varying global footprints.  Some are into the whole strategy development and ongoing evaluation modeling (some even using us to monitor both the strategy and changing conditions so they can focus on operational delivery) while others feel that the strategy simply means selling.  Unfortunately without vision, without a modest amount of formalization a simplistic vision may never be realized.  Should it become so, if by chance, then the lack of vision inhibits the development of the business.  Some write this off to growing pains and mid-life crisis, its really because of a lack of strategic visioning.  Every enterprise that is serious about what they do, what they simplistically wish to achieve needs to debate the question about strategy and do so in a formal, determined and pragmatic fashion.

Why oh Why???

ImageSo as you read these points we ask ourselves the question as to why strategic thinking and development is apt to change?  I attribute it to the participants.  Because of position, experience and success record there is a pervasive belief that its not required for them.  They believe that their personal virtues will carry them through and this makes them business leaders.  In all fairness they are partially correct, they can and will be the catalyst behind results.  At the sametime they are also have to respect that they are the benefactors for failures and oversights that occur as a result not being fully equipped for the task of strategy development.  Let’s face it a strategy is not done everyday and therefore the ability to take the task and make it a craft becomes a problem.  The problem is however affordably solvable based on one simple premise, “Right strategic thinking afford the greatest potential for success”.

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