At its heart, strategy is pretty simple: it’s about creating a clear direction and ambition that will drive your future success. But, as we all know, very few organisations succeed in either developing or delivering a strategy that delivers sustained growth.
It’s true that unpredictable markets, changes in technology and upstart competition all make it difficult to commit to a particular course of action and follow through on your objectives and initiatives. Yet, some companies do succeed in creating and implementing a strategy that works.
In fact, the more I think about it the clearer it is to me that the issue is internal, not external. Organisational culture, shared beliefs and senior leadership are the real enablers – or barriers– to strategic success. Everything else is just noise.
So, I have created a manifesto to help you build and develop your company’s strategic power. Use these 13 declarations as a checklist and a guide to the step-changing the effectiveness of your strategic approach:
- “The truth can’t hurt you, it’s just like the dark….” This is a line from an Elvis Costello song (I Want You, from the Blood and Chocolate LP), which continues, “…it scares you witless, but in time you see things clear and stark.” In other words, you need to face the facts and insights about your organisation’s current position, its performance and its future opportunities.
- Strategy is like football. Without a goal it’s simply just passing a ball around.
- The customer’s not always right, but that’s the way to bet. All great companies have a laser-like focus on understanding what their customers really want and need.
- Nothing fails like success. Most companies don’t fail because they’re bad at what they do, but because they’re great at what they do. It’s by clinging onto strengths, capabilities, products and services that are no longer valued by your customers that will most likely bring you down. Just think of Kodak, Nokia and Blockbuster.
- #1 or gone. You have no choice than to aim to lead your market in some way. If you’re not willing to commit to leadership, your committing to your own demise.
- Strategy is a contact sport (1). Leadership teams shouldn’t delegate the development of strategy to lower level managers or consultants. They need to do their own blocking and tackling, analysis and development.
- Most business strategies can be developed within 48 hours. With a bit of planning and structure, leadership teams can create the outline of an effective strategy in a couple of days. It’s what happens after such meetings that makes the real difference.
- Innovation is an imperative, not an option. If you’re committed to being #1 then you have no choice but to innovate. In fact, it’s impossible to gain and sustain a leading position in your market without a systematic commitment to innovation.
- Actions speak louder than plans. Too many companies spend too much time planning incremental improvements to their business, when the winners are consistently focused on taking action.
- You can’t chase two hares. If a hunting dog chases a hare, it has about a 10% chance of catching it. But if it tries to chase two at once, the probability of success immediately drops to nil. Don’t try and do everything; focus, focus, focus on what you can move forward rapidly that will have a big impact on your strategic ambitions.
- Think big, start small, learn fast. Taking action isn’t just about taking big risks, but about learning faster and more cheaply than your competitors.
- Strategy is a contact sport (2). In other words, it’s all about the people. Strategy is created top-down, but it’s delivered bottom-up and 90% or more of your strategic focus should be on developing, engaging and supporting your people to deliver.
- Willpower beats horsepower. Strategic power and success is a result of the delivery of a consistent set of actions. That requires discipline, perseverance and a healthy dose of bloody-mindedness. Deep pockets are great, but they are nothing without collective willpower.
I’ll be writing more about each of these declarations in the coming days and weeks, so please join me to help you transform the strategic power of your business.
© Stuart Cross 2017. All rights reserved