‘Strategy’ is an overworked word. Organisations know they need they strategies – but what marks out the good ones?
Quite often we hear ‘one-liners’ in organisations. ‘Our strategy is to expand into this market…exploit this new opportunity…develop that new product … engage with this new supplier…build that new plant…move our business to [here or there]’ and so on. Sometimes we are given the end state (as well as the action): ‘control x% of this or that market by y date’.
When we want to establish whether these stated intentions are strategies or aspirations, we ask some questions of the Board: ‘how is it going to be done …. with what resources …. when ….. …. by whom?’
If these questions are consistently and coherently answered by them, we then get around the organisation and ask the same question of people at all levels and in all departments.
‘What is your business’ strategy?’ Sometimes people know the headline, occasionally they know their part in achieving it, and – very rarely – they can state the strategy in full.
The point is this: an aspiration is only a strategy if its expression captures the five elements: what – how – by whom – with what resources – when. For it to be memorable – and by definition it must be memorable – it has to be expressible in one sentence.
Even then, achieving total understanding of a strategy at all levels in an organisation is a very tall order. Helping businesses ‘get there’ is one of our most common roles.