Three quick ways to improve your strategy

The standard strategic processes of most companies share three common characteristics: 1) you wait for the annual strategic review to review your strategy; 2) you set up a SWOT analysis as an input at the start of the strategy process; and 3) you begin the strategy process with a long and arduous exercise to formulate a mission / vision statement or organizational aspiration.

These activities are, without a doubt, reassuring and familiar. They are also almost completely unnecessary. Let’s look at each in turn:

The annual strategic cycle

Last time I checked, competitors don’t wait for your annual strategy cycle to attack, customers don’t wait for your annual strategy cycle to change their preferences, and new technologies don’t wait for your annual strategy cycle to overtake. yours.

Strategy cannot wait for bureaucratic, non-market timing. When making your strategic choices, you need to specify which aspects of the competitive market – consumer preferences, competitor behavior, your own abilities – must hold true for the strategy to be good. Then you have to watch them religiously.

If these facts about the market do not change, then it is pointless and unnecessary to review the strategy. But as soon as one of them ceases to be true, the strategy needs to be reviewed and revised. Waiting for a predetermined time to do this only has advantages for your competition.

The upstream SWOT analysis

Perhaps the most common way to start a strategic process is a SWOT analysis. However, there is simply no such thing as a generic strength, weakness, opportunity, or threat.

A strength is only a strength in the context of a particular choice of where to play and how to win (WTP / HTW), as is the case with any weakness, opportunity and threat. So, attempting to analyze these characteristics before a potential WTP / HTW choice is a fool’s game. This is why SWOT analyzes tend to be long, complex and expensive, but not convincing or useful. Think about the last time you got a blinding glimpse of the company in question from an initial SWOT analysis. I bet that doesn’t come to mind quickly. The initial SWOT exercise tends to be an inch deep and a mile wide.

The time to do analyzes of the kind that typically appear in SWOT analyzes is after you have reverse engineered a WTP / HTW possibility. This will allow you to focus the analyzes with precision on the real barriers to strategic choice – the exploration will then be one kilometer deep and one centimeter wide.

Writing a vision or mission statement

Usually right after the SWOT exercise, the strategy team is focused on producing a vision or mission statement. This often turns into a long and arduous process in which team members sincerely discuss specific word choices in order to produce the “perfect” statement.

Unfortunately, you cannot define your vision / mission statement (or what I call your winning aspiration) without making your choice of where to play / how to win (WTP / HTW). Spending time writing a vision / mission statement before making a WTP / HTW choice is a colossal waste of time.

This does not mean that an aspiration is unnecessary. So, make a quick first pass to a statement before diving into WTP / HTW. But spend no more than an hour on it, and then review it during and after making decisions about WTP / HTW, capabilities, and management systems.

If your strategic process is anchored in these three activities, you can expect a great improvement if you simply put the cart behind the horse and take the lead in deciding where to play and how to win.

Strategy development is not about unearthing and implementing a causal chain from the first principles of market conditions and existing capabilities to the right market position. It’s about making choices and taking risks to get to where you want to be. Make your strategic process reflect this fact.