“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
If I asked you what your organization’s strategy is right now without looking would you know? If so, how many others do you think know it by heart? Strategy is one of those obnoxious businessy words that we all get in those condescending organizational announcements. “With this new strategy our team will synergize the core competencies and take the business to the next level, blah, blah, blah.” But the strategy is very important to how your organization will grow, change, and succeed in a constantly changing environment with fierce competition and scarce resources. It’s a fairly simple concept, but it gets more lip service than actual focus. There are many definitions, articles, and books about strategy, but to keep it simple; if your mission explains who, what, where, when, and why, your strategy answers the how.
What was your organization like ten years ago? Remember 2006, when Bernie Madoff was still a NASDAQ executive and the economy was doing pretty good? What type of processes, technology, customers, competitors, and resources did you have and how has it changed? What government regulations have changed? These are all things to consider when planning for what you want your organization to look like in the future as the next five years could change more drastically than the past ten. Your customers have a choice, why should they choose you? It could be price, quality, or resources. Do you want to offer the best price for similar products or services? Do you strive to provide the best quality, or do you offer something different that no one else quite can? Focus on what you do best, how you’re going to earn customers and be better than other alternatives.
The company may have an overriding strategy, but there should be subordinate strategies in the financial, operational, and marketing departments that support the overall company strategy. The Strategy Triad is the concept of synchronizing your business, operational, and marketing strategies. They all influence each other and are important in achieving the mission and goals of the organization. The mission may focus on one area, and each component may influence the other two. For example, if the business goal is to grow to $5 million revenue by the end of the year, then what do you need operationally to achieve that? Do you have the right amount of manpower, resources, support? Are the processes in place going to support that goal? How many customers, jobs, products are needed to achieve that goal? What sales volume is required, what types of sales, how do you market yourself? On the other side if you have primarily operational objectives, the financial strategy will need to accommodate with the controls, support, and forecasts while the marketing strategy should ensure there is sufficient sales to meet the financial objectives and support the operational objectives. It is a continuous cycle in which each element must compliment the others.
The important thing is to put the thought into everything that needs to happen from all perspectives of the business. Get the input from the people that will actually execute the tasks. Get their ideas and opinions, and more importantly, get them on board. Dwight Eisenhower once said “plans are nothing; planning is everything.” The point of strategy is not to have a document that lays out the plan of action. The point is to have a cohesive team that understands the intent and can make decisions amidst the changing environment, execute the plan, and succeed. A highly recommended book on this topic is Bill Birnbaum’s Strategic Thinking: A four piece puzzle. He demonstrates the importance of thinking strategically over strategic planning.