For some reason, the idea of strategy seems to cause two reactions in many business people today. The desire to over think the business processes or to lean towards a tactical list of action items. The fact that strategy is at the core the fuel that drives a business forward – it is also the understanding of what the business is, why it is different than others and sets it apart in the market.
There are wonderful tools to help better understand your strategy, like SWOT analysis, What if scenario planning, and much much more. These are tools not the end result, like a hammer is not a house.
The definitions available on strategy are:
1. Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked.
2. Definition of STRATEGY
1 a (1) : the science and art of employing the political, economic, psychological, and military forces of a nation or group of nations to afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war (2) : the science and art of military command exercised to meet the enemy in combat under advantageous conditions
b : a variety of or instance of the use of strategy
2 a : a careful plan or method : a clever stratagem b : the art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal
3 an adaptation or complex of adaptations (as of behavior, metabolism, or structure) that serves or appears to serve an important function in achieving evolutionary success <foraging strategies of insects>
How I look at strategy is at a few levels:
- Define a perfect customer and why they are perfect?
- Where does the cash register ring?
- How do you make money and lose money?
- What are you great at?
- What is the focus and meaning of the business?
- What is the value to bring to your customers?
- Where do you want to be in 5, 10, 30 years as a business?
- Are your resources, development and operations aligned with what you say you are as a business?
What is it going to take to be a success and why?
The step after you start to get a handle on the core thinking of the business, the real hard part starts - making sure you are honest with yourself and the business. Making changes to better align with the vision if what you want the business to be, to become.
A big part of getting a handle on your strategy is talking and listening. Talking with your team mates, talking with customers (past, present, happy and unhappy ones), talking with the competition, with the market and taking it in and making a plan forward based on this.
In the end, it is the common sense thinking of the business. Do you know where you are headed and do you have the resources and the ability to get to where you want as an organization. Do you have a plan forward and is your team aligned to make it happen.
Strategy comes before marketing, before sales, before operations. It is a map forward.