Strategy means making choices. Hard choices. Choices with consequences. Strategies pursue objectives. Different objectives – different strategies.
How will each of the nine types of strategy best serve your goals?
This workshop begins with a challenge designed for your audience. What tangible threat haunts your leaders’ dreams? Teams huddle in a quick-hit exercise to consider their possible actions.
FROM THE GREEK, STRATEGY ORIGINATED IN MILITARY PLANNINGIn debrief, participants have a starting point. In a rapid march through history they will recognize that stratos – literally “that which is spread out” – refers to the configuration of soldiers and arms arrayed across the battlefield. Agos, or “leader“, refers to the field commander, the decision-maker. The general’s “strategos” determined the placement of his army. Today’s military demotes those actions one level, appropriately labeling field placement as “tactics” – like the moves across a chessboard, a corollary for life-and-death maneuvers Caesar’s legions elevated the definition. “Strategia” or “the art of the general” informed the larger decisions of conquest, to subsume whole populations into global empire. Centuries later Napoleon’s stratégie took the same long view in his march, both martial and political, across Europe.
Strategy wages war. Tactics fight battles.
In the vernacular of business and other non-martial exploits, strategies describe your plan to achieve a goal. In review of past successes and failures, this workshop reveals that the most important step to a successful strategy actually precedes strategy. Set a clear goal. Specify the conditions that define “winning”. Then assemble your strategy – choosing where and when you’ll invest your assets, resources and activities toward that goal. For intact executive teams or functional leaders, the workshop provides a goal-setting exercise. Even the basics—what makes a good goal—make a meaningful difference.
Combine your strategies according to market conditions.
Once you set your goal, consider which combination of strategies serve it best. This depends on the conditions in your market. Is it overserved, underserved, or unswerved? The answer dictates whether your strategy compares against close competitors, connects to customers, or conceives new offerings. You may pursue all nine in any given moment, with different emphasis and priorities. Each presents its own challenges.
Compare, Connect and Conceive.
A market teeming with competitors leaves customers overwhelmed with choice, often presenting little differentiation. When too many indistinct options compete for over-served customers, price becomes the primary decision criterion. Compare yourself to the competition to position for advantage. No strategy presents more peril than competing on price. Frustrated customers – paying a high price, suffering poor service – have every right to feel underserved. Your offering fails them, along with the rest. Even altogether the competitive set proves insufficient to fulfill demand. In this case you will find the expedient strategy connects you with others, combining and to deliver a better answer. The most promising and most daunting opportunities arise when market demand goes unserved. In that case you need an innovation strategy to conceive a wholly new offering.
Define strategy by the level of action you must take.
Your strategy acts on one or more of three major tiers. Manipulate these mechanisms at descending scale. Each of the three levels, Organization, Operations and Offering, are detailed in subsequent posts. But for now just an overview, taking it from the top…
At the highest level you define strategy to direct an organization. This is a bit like turning a battleship. Many moving parts requires greater coordination.
Tier 1 Organization strategies navigate your place in today’s market and choices to win against competitors, with partners, or with new solutions. Higher-level decisions require higher-level consent. Strategies at this top level change the course of an organization’s history. CEOs make the big bucks because at the organization level, their strategic choices can propel or sink the business.
Every entity serves three operating constituencies – the customer, the channel and its own internal functions. To serve them well you need the diligence to continually analyze your the opportunities to improve.
Tier 2 Operations strategies differ by audience – internal teams or external, channel partners or customers At this second level, you’re maneuvering the crew around the deck. In some ways these strategies are more complex because you’re coordinating people. When you move people around, it gets personal. Spend more time listening. Perception pays dividends.
At the lowest level you focus on your Offering – your value to customers. How will you position your product or service or promise versus competing offers? How will you communicate your relative merits? For innovative new offerings, what brand strategy attracts attention, drives trials, and wins returns?
Tier 3 Offering strategies position your company and your products and services distinctly, to communicate their unique character consistently and memorably at every touchpoint.
Make a plan.
Equipped with this understanding, participants engage in a team activity to produce a more comprehensive and powerful set of strategies. For a large group with sufficient functional coverage, we can divide into all nine teams. Steps may be pursued in parallel by sub-teams to reassemble into an overall strategy. First, we present a scenario. The market indicates new demand, alternative competitors, new regulatory implications, emerging new customer groups. This presents a scenario for the near future. Teams start by standing in today’s reality. Then, depending on their strategy assignment, each team will:
- Set your strategic objective.
- Choose your focus.
- Set priorities.
- Draft your strategies.
- Present for critique, course correction and integration.
Teams reconvene in the general session to present their plans, test each other’s logic, flag points of disconnect or conflict, and resolve them into a single coherent master plan.
Make it real.
Upon completion of the program, you’re prepared to communicate a plan, and prepare teams to take it to market.