Well! This week’s subject is strategy and planning and the two things are very different although they are closely aligned. They are so different in fact that this may lead to two separate blogs to fully cover the subject and of course we will start with strategy.
Like all disciplines the creation of strategy is about the use of resources, which ones you need and which ones are getting the way. The basis of a good strategy is vision and the resources you need our imagination and time. You need imagination to place yourself in a position where you have changed something fundamentally in your state. Present state is where you are now and future, or desired state is where you want to be and strategy is the tool that you use to bridge the gap between the two.
In order to build an effective strategy therefore, find yourself a nice quiet place, give yourself some time and imagining where you want to be. Give yourself a timescale, the strategy may work over 10 years, six months, or this half of the football season. Strategy is usually, but not always a longer term exercise.
Once you’ve decided where you want to be, what you want to have achieved and when you want it, then it you can imagine yourself in that place in that time and look back from and think about how you got there. What kind of things happened along the way that helped you? or got in the way? What are the opportunities that you have and the pitfalls that you have to negotiate.
If you are a sales manager and you’re thinking about achieving the most from your team ask yourself, “what do they want?”. Does your strategy help them to fill their ambitions, or will they leave you because you haven’t given them enough opportunity. In fact a list of strategy questions may be as follows:
1) What do I want?
2) When do I want it?
3) What is the absolute best I can get beyond what I want?
3) What other people around me want?
4) How can I help them to get what they want?
5) How can I get them to help me?
6) What do the competition want?
7) Do I need to stop them, or can I work with them?
These are very general questions and avoid things like swot analysis and marketing tools designed to analyse the market, the product range, the pricing structure and other tools that detail what you want to do. Strategy is about what you want to do and not at this stage about how you want to do it, too much detail at this stage will stifle your creativity and your imagination.
This brings us onto the stuff that you don’t need, and the things that you don’t need are common sense, perceived logic and obvious ways of doing things. Common sense will always tell you the things that you can’t do and will not inform you about the things that you can, common sense tells you that a steel ship won’t float, because steel is heavier than water, it will tell you the bumblebee can’t fly. The truly great strategists and achievers of the world rise above common sense.
Great strategy is about visualising the future and making it happen, it happens in moments of inspiration when the strategist is alone and thinking things through. Great strategy rarely involves in board meetings and think tanks and the reason for this is that the politics get in the way. The best way for you to formulate your strategy is to decide for yourself what you want to have happen and then use all of the resources around you to make it happen.
A short example before we go. In the late 60s the Japanese desperately needed growth and they needed to develop a automotive industry. The automotive industry at that time was dominated by American, British and German manufacturers and the market did not appear to be receptive to new entrants. If public opinion at that time was not quite hostile towards Japanese industry, it certainly wasn’t friendly and this needed to be overcome for the Japanese strategy to succeed.
The plan was to start in a small way with motorcycles producing well engineered vehicles at prices that domestic competitors could not match and value for money quickly overcame any preference for domestic product. Common sense here said that the Japanese could charge more for the product and increase profitability, but that’s not what the Japanese manufacturers did. They were in the game for the long term and to win the market.
With the success of the motorcycle industry Japanese manufacturers then started to fill the market with motorcars and through use of this strategy have now one of the largest and best respected automotive industries in the world.
Next week will make it happen when we talk about planning.