If you have a strategy – tell me what it is!
“Why will people buy from you versus your competition?” I asked a CEO. He recently went through a “strategic planning” process, so the question seemed reasonable. He couldn’t answer it. Some of you reading this can’t either.
More often than not, CEOs believe they have a strategy, but when asked to articulate it, it turns into a loose speech that doesn’t really answer where they compete and why they’ll win.
If you’re a CEO, walk the hallways and ask people these two questions: “What is our market?” and “Why will people buy from us rather than someone else?” If you can’t clearly answer them, they won’t be able to either. And if they can’t answer them, how will they make the critical decisions necessary to move the company forward?
There’s no one right way to compose a strategy statement, but below is a template that’ll serve you well if you’re stumped. However, the decisions necessary to fill in the blanks require some work! This assumes that you’ve undertaken a strategic thinking process to identify the driving force in your business, the strategic profile and critical issues.
Step 1: Use the “driving force” model of strategy[i] to write the following strategy template:
(Company name) is a (DRIVING FORCE)-driven organization that serves (CLEARLY DEFINED MARKET/CUSTOMER GROUP) with (TIGHT PRODUCT/SERVICES DESCRIPTION) in (GEOGRAPHY). Our critical areas of excellence are (THREE OR FEWER AREAS OF EXCELLENCE).
Step 2: Wordsmith the strategy statement until you’re comfortable and confident. Your vision must be compelling; your strategy is more about description and focus. Each word is important and should have meaning such that you can make decisions and direct your team.
Step 3: Identify what changes you’ll undertake and what you’ll stop doing to execute this strategy (e.g., products, customers, geography, programs, systems, rewards and organizational changes).
Step 4: Communicate this in a dialogue with your team in multiple ways. Repeat it frequently. If you aren’t bored with your message, you’re not repeating it enough!
Step 5: Use the strategy statement in decision making, planning, hiring and budgeting so it’s effective. Identify how you’ll systematize this.
Simple, but not easy!
[i] This model, initially espoused by Kepner-Tregoe, says that there is one “driving force” in your business such as product, market, technology, operations capability, marketing method, etc.