Strategy is simply how you intend to compete, but there is nothing simple about competing effectively. Your goal should be to develop undefeatable strategies in building a great business, and nothing less should be acceptable. There is a secret to it, well an answer that many do not recognise. Do you understand the key to developing undefeatable strategies?
Active Knowledge Question:
What’s the process you use to develop your business strategies, and what does it incorporate?
The following is an extract from the guide ‘Strategy Play’.
Few leaders today appreciate the overwhelming strength that a well-crafted business strategy can bring to a business. The words ‘undefeatable business strategy’ would be a fantasy for many leaders – as the art of business strategy has been lost to them. For many business leaders, strategy lies in command and control, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Today, business success lies in delivering more customer value than anyone else. And that means engagement at the coalface, a mustering of workforce passion and an empathy for customer need that allows you to see the need before it even exists.
Technology has, and is continuing, to dismantle barriers to create an open global marketplace for all players. Resourcing and workforce capability continue to be more ‘open source’ and incumbency can, at many times, be a greater disadvantage than advantage.
The ability to create capital value in their business is elusive for many leaders as they feel overwhelmed with the level of competition and change that is occurring in their markets. Capital value lies in the level of certainty for that business to create an enduring income into the future, but the business leaders are often less than certain.
Business strategy is how you intend to compete in delivering on your purpose and achieving your goals. It is founded in direction, alignment and focus, and draws in and upon your entire business in supporting its achievement. Today, the outcome of business strategy is to craft businesses and organisations that are competitively fit and tactically alive. These are the great businesses of tomorrow, and they are built by strategists – people who can think and act strategically.
A strategist sees the range of options and possibilities. They understand what it takes to build and sustain a competitive business. They identify and explore forces at play in the chosen competitive landscape, are not limited by past successes or failures, and are free of personal self-interest. They develop and use adaptable frameworks that allow them to process and understand this dynamic framework in which they seek to work.
Think and Act Strategically
The capability of a business to think and act strategically is the foundation of building its competitive strength. I believe this journey starts with a business beginning to think and act strategically through always:
- Making a conscious decision as to how it will compete.
- Considering the implications of its actions on how it has chosen to compete
- Looking for opportunities to improve the customer value it delivers.
- Watching for the signs of change and moving to take advantage of them.
- Not chasing but leading competitors.
- Adopting the mantra of better every day.
Once a business has learned to think and act strategically, it can then move towards understanding and setting the journey for real growth and thereafter towards creating an organisation capable of decisive competitiveness.
This journey has three key steps and a fourth hidden outcome:
- Crafting undefeatable strategies.
- Setting the journey of real growth.
- Creating an organisation capable of decisive competitiveness.
Attain these three outcomes, and you will shift towards achieving formlessness, a competitive state where your competitors and the market cannot discern what comes next. And therefore, your competitors will be unable to get a handle on your strategy to be able to compete or even keep up with you.
The underlying attitude through all these steps is never-ending improvement. You are constantly peeling back the layers as your understanding grows deeper.
Start With Leadership
Strategy is a lost art of leadership. So, to commence the journey, start with leadership and begin to unpack and understand the existing views of strategic planning and then begin to shift them. You can commence this process by asking three simple questions of your leadership team and also yourself:
- What does strategic business planning mean to you?
- How is strategic business planning used in your business?
- What are the benefits you receive?
Now keep in mind strategy is all about how you intend to compete. And you are seeking to achieve a clear direction in your business, you want everyone focused on that direction, and you really want all resources and efforts aligned in delivery of that direction. Essentially, it’s about direction, alignment and focus.
Consider the following two diagrams. Here are the elements:
- The ball is your business that you are seeking to shift up the hill.
- The hill is the constant daily battle in which you have to compete effectively, at the top is your goal.
- The people are your employees, stakeholders, customers, suppliers and all the resources in your business.
Without strategy, it’s you and maybe a few other loyal followers desperately trying to drag the business up the hill, day after day. Where’s everyone else? Well, they’re not too sure what you are up to and really have not brought into the whole deal. So, most are just standing around watching you, at least one wants a free ride and is sitting on the ball, and then there is the other guy or girl off to the righthand side, who has gone totally off the reservation – who knows that they are up to, but they certainly don’t seem to be helping you much.
Without a clear and articulate strategic plan, there can be no direction, alignment or focus.
With a strategy, you know you have a game plan that everyone can get behind, support and know their part. You now have the entire team working the strategy and moving the business towards its goals and vision in a unified way. The likelihood of you being successful has just multiplied a hundredfold. The outcome you are seeking is – one team, one purpose, one vision, one culture and a passion in what we do.
Worthy leadership is fundamental in building a great business and when thinking of strategic planning, there are attributes that I believe are essential for leaders to start down the path of crafting undefeatable strategies, here they are:
- Read widely and continuously
- Seek new heights for their business every day.
- Are always searching for new ideas.
- Are knowledge-hungry.
- Want to grow the competitiveness of their business.
- Are not scared of change or risk.
- Are looking to solve the problems in their business and are also seeking thought leadership to challenge them and take their business to another level.
An insatiable appetite to do better and to learn whatever they can from wherever they can is the foundation. In a global marketplace where technology is removing barriers of all types, great ideas and learnings can come from all sorts of places; change is just a daily occurrence. As a leader engaging their business at a strategic level, you need and want a breadth of knowledge to shake the depth of knowledge that can reside in well-established businesses.
A Quick Leadership Test
A final point on leadership. It is always an interesting exercise to ask the following six questions of your leadership team at the very commencement of a strategic planning exercise. The answers reveal an enormous amount, not only of the alignment across your leadership team but also how they think about strategy, growth and competitiveness. Here are the six questions. Answer them yourself and ask your leadership team to answer them as well.
- What does your business do?
- What is it that your business is really good at, that is, better than anyone else?
- Why do your customers keep coming back?
- What market demographics do you target?
- What does your brand represent?
- For what purpose does your business exist?
What do the answers say about alignment and the attitude towards strategy, growth and competitiveness?
But there is an even more important aspect to consider in reflecting on their answers, as their answers go to the heart of competitiveness. In responding to each of these six questions, consider the following in order of the questions above:
- Does your leadership team respond to this question in a language that reflects they appreciate the real value and benefit they deliver to their customers? Or do they answer in a transactional/mechanical way? This is an important distinction as a team that recognises customer value more clearly can deliver on that value.
- If your team can clearly identify what you truly excel at as a business, then it reflects they have a good understanding of capability and can leverage those strengths to compete. If no one really knows what they excel at, if they provide a list or something which everyone in the industry is or has to be good at, then you know that they don’t believe you excel at anything.
- A really solid understanding of why customers keep coming back reflects a focus on the customer and value delivered. Weak and non-committal language again reflects a lack of focus.
- Succinctly describing the demographics of your customer base is a reflection of clarity of your target market and the commencement of being able to develop an effective customer persona. It also supports an understanding of how changing agents in the marketplace may impact need. Again, a long list of prospective customers with ill-defined attributes reflects a lack of focus.
- The attributes of your brand should clearly align with customer value and areas of excellence in your business.
- Often this question is poorly answered. Either a mission or vision statement is supplied or simply an answer of revenue and profit. The concept of purpose and its importance cannot be underestimated and is vital to the enduring success of your business – purpose must be connected to future customer need.
In Part Two, we will consider the range of matters that must be addressed in developing your strategy and also examine the answer (secret) that many do not recognise is the core and seed of undefeatable strategies.
What and how your team thinks about strategy will reflect how they will act, and that will reveal whether they are on the right path to start off with. Leadership is strategy, and strategy is leadership.
An entirely new level of performance.
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All the best in the success of your business,