The term strategy has most certainly become a buzzword in business. What makes this particular buzzword interesting is the fact that when used, people are in a way wondering exactly what is meant. So, what is strategy? Yes, it’s a plan of action to achieve a goal. But as funny as it may sound, what is the plan for the plan? How do you ensure that the steps that you are taking to develop a particular strategy are the right steps for your situation? I feel that in many cases there is a great deal of conversation about and around strategy, but there isn’t much conversation on the strategy itself.
From my perspective, there are three keys to strategy.
Understand your industry.
It is key to understand the specifics of the industry you are in. Where are you currently positioned? What are your customers and/or clients in need of? What will change the industry? What can the organization do to spark that change? These are all questions that form the tip of the iceberg of developing the overall strategy.
Don’t focus on competition, focus on what you what to achieve.
Taking the time to focus on or compare what you are doing to them is counterproductive. As a former track & field athlete, coaches always told me that as a sprinter it was always me vs the clock. You always focus on the finish line, never on those that are running in the same heat. Checking to see where others are can knock you off your race. You want your competitors to talk about you, not you talking about them.
Structure and Culture
Strategy is only successful between 11%-30% of the time. Structure and culture are the primary reason the rate of success is low. It is extremely important that the two keys above are used to create the structure guiding the allocation of resources and people. The people and the culture that they make up require a great deal of attention. The clear communication of the strategy across the organization is the first step. Once the overall strategy is communicated, the details laying out where employees fit within the strategy is the next step. Employees should not only be able to articulate the strategy, but they should feel empowered to execute on it. The last step is listen. Listen to the thoughts and the concerns of all employees. This is the moment where true empowerment is established.