What is a strategy?

A strategy could be thought of as the conscious choices the leaders of an organization make about how they will meet the demands and opportunities of the business environment.

It clarifies such questions as to why the organization exists, which markets it serves, what distinguishes it from its competitors, what goals and objectives it must achieve to succeed, and by what values and principles people will conduct themselves.

Most organizations that lack a well-defined strategy lose their focus and eventually fail.

Strategy: A set of conscious choices about how an organization will deliver value to its customers and distinguish itself from its competitors.

Strategy:

  • Is a mindset more than a document.
  • Addresses the interface between the organization and its environment.
  • Lays the foundation for tomorrow’s success while competing to win today.
  • Involves anticipating, adapting, and creating change.
  • Is the most important and difficult challenge facing businesses
  • Requires trade-offs (can’t be all things to all people).
  • Includes differentiating oneself from competitors.
  • Necessitates risk-taking.
  • Is the task of the whole organization.
  • Must be operationalized into plans and actions.

Three Approaches to Strategy

1. Internally-driven

  • Most businesses are internally driven.
  • This means that their strategy is driven by what they have done in the past.
  • Their thinking is from the inside out—they decide what to make, how to make it, and then how to get customers to buy it.
  • The weaknesses of this strategy are that organization members are not anticipating changes in the marketplace and so fail to be adaptive and innovative. This results in the “buggy whip” syndrome in which they keep making buggy whips, which they are good at, in an era of automobiles.

2. Customer – driven

  • Sometimes businesses, especially those that have attempted to use principles of the Total Quality movement, are customer-driven.
  • They try to develop a business strategy by “being close” and “listening” to the customer.
  • They ask the same questions as the internally-driven company: “What products should we make and sell?” However, now they want the customer to answer these questions.
  • The consequence of trying to be too customer-driven is that these companies end up trying to be “all things to all people.” They fail to link what they do to their core competencies, how they want to differentiate them from their competitors, or how they add value to an organization.

3. Market – driven

This strategy is based on making conscious choices about which markets organizations will serve and how they add value to their customers.

  • They seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors by identifying the specific benefits they will or will not provide and organizing around the delivery of these benefits.
  • Point out that it is not the same as asking customers for their input and feedback. It is based on making decisions about how they want to compete.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the long-term vision of our organization?
  2. Are we internally driven, customer-driven, or market driven?
  3. How well do we understand the changes that are occurring in our environment?
  4. What is the unique value we provide to our customers?
  5. How does the value we provide distinguish us from our competitors?

If you’re struggling with these questions, then you should consider working with one of our consultants to get you on the right track.