Unlike marketing, strategy is not about a firm, or even a firm’s clients. It’s about the market, and the competition. Strategy is about where you put your resources – time, money, management attention – in order to get the best results in your particular environment. If tactics are all about “How do we get there” then strategy is about “Why do we want to go in the first place?” Strategy is about developing a sustainable competitive advantage – deciding to play in an area you can take a lead in, and keep. Finally, strategy is about being ruthlessly realistic — as the saying goes, hope is definitely not a strategy, no matter how fervent.
As strategy consultants, our role is to help our clients think through their alternatives, develop a viable, sound plan, and to support them with a pragmatic, entrepreneurial approach. Particularly in this area, the best is, in fact, the enemy of the good, and the goal, often, is to get going in the right direction rather than wait another five meetings for an allegedly perfect plan to emerge. The bottom line, always, is a good, solid answer to the question of where, given a firm’s resources, they can play and win, and how.
We also tend to place a high priority on implementation. A plan that, in the real world, can’t be executed is just as bad as no plan at all. Thus, we tend to focus on the nuts and bolts of how a proposed strategic plan can be implemented, by whom, and using what resources.
Finally, when it comes to strategy, we are all about metrics. This isn’t a tautology. When hammering out a strategy, it’s essential to set up some concrete goals in advance. This tends to prevent mission creep, and also insures that the haze of time doesn’t obscure what you originally intended to do. In other words, key questions include “How will we know we’ve accomplished our objective?” It’s best to do this ahead of time, and adjust later, so you keep the bigger picture in mind.
Done properly, strategy is a game-changer. A force multiplier. Pick your metaphor. You’re not simply playing the game – if you’re doing it right, you’re inventing a whole new one.