September 2019 – Letters From Lisa

Strategy has been studied for years by business leaders and theorists. Yet, there is no definitive answer about what strategy really is. One reason is because people think about strategy in different ways.

For instance, some people believe that you must analyze the present carefully, anticipate changes in the market or industry, and, from this, plan how to succeed in the future. Meanwhile, others think that the future is just too difficult to predict, and they prefer to evolve their strategies from just looking inside their own walls.

A simple definition of strategy can be: “Determining how we are going to win in the period ahead.” The biggest problem with the way organizations think about strategy is they confuse strategy with plans. They aren’t the same thing.

A strategic framework must establish what the business will do to deliver value for which customers are willing to pay and how it expects to hit target revenues and profits. The strategy doesn’t answer all the questions required for implementation — that’s planning, but it clearly establishes the game you are playing and how you expect to win. It also identifies the games you aren’t playing — the things you have no intention of delivering, even if your best customer begs you.

This framework helps us make decisions about how we will play the game of business. These decisions, which occur daily throughout the organization, include everything from capital investments to operational priorities to marketing, to hiring, to sales approaches, to branding efforts, to how each individual shuffles his or her “To Do” list every single morning. Without a strategic framework to guide these decisions, the organization will run in too many different directions, accomplish little, and suffer enormous confusion that ultimately stifles any plans or goals, good or bad.

Let’s pause a minute and look at this from the reverse. When should one not build a strategic framework:

• No time
• No resources
• No commitment from leadership
• In an acute crisis or transition

Or in other words just before the doors close. If you are reading this VISION article, your doors are not closing, so it’s time you choose to build a strategic framework and then use it every day as your guide in the planning and execution of tactics.