Can you say what your strategy is

Can you say what your strategy is?

David J. Collis and Michael G. Rukstad | Apr – 2008

Summary : Can you summarize company’s strategy in 35 words or less

Very few executives and they are most successful

Ex: Grow from x to y by 20XX by offering this and that service [through a national/international network of offices]/[online]

Companies that don’t have a simple and clear statement of strategy

Complains like “No one told me before I started” or “We lost time chasing xyz which are not in our strategy”

A well-understood statement of strategy aligns behavior within the business. It allows everyone in the organization to make individual choices that reinforce one another

What is strategy?

Michael Porter lays out characteristics of strategy in a conceptual fashion, conveying the essence of strategic choices and distinguishing them from the relentless but competitive fruitless search for operational efficiency

Its not practical and most executives don’t actually know what all the elements of a strategic statement are, which makes it impossible for them to develop one

With clear definition, two things happen

Formulation becomes infinitely easier

Implementation becomes much simpler (easy to communicate to employees and easily internalized by everyone in the organization)

Elements of a Strategy Statement

3 critical components


Should include not only endpoint but also a time frame for reaching it


Define the part of landscape in which firm will operate


“What will your business do differently from or better than others”. Two components.

External: Why targeted customer should buy your product above all the alternatives

Internal: How internal activities must be aligned so that only your firm can deliver that value proposition

Defining the Objective

Companies often confuse their statement of values or missing with objective

It’s not, for example

Maximizing shareholder wealth by exceeding customer expectations for XYZ product and providing opportunities for our employees to lead fulfilling lives

Firms in the same business often have the same mission, values and vision, however strategic objective would be different

Strategic objective should be specific, measurable and time bound

It should also be a single goal

Defining the Scope

Three dimensions

Customer or offering

Edward Jones

does not define archetypical customer by net worth or income

Rather by Psychographic: customers are long term investors, who have a conservative investment philosophy and uncomfortable making serious financial decisions without support of trusted advisor

Targets “delegator”, not the “validator” or “do-it-yourselfer”

Geographical location

Scope should specify where the firm or business will not go

Vertical integration

Scope of product line

Defining the Advantage

Clarity about what makes the firm distinctive is what most helps employees understand how they can contribute to successful execution of its strategy

Defining sustainable competitive advantage consists of 2 parts

Statement of the customer value proposition: A simple graphic that maps your value proposition against those of rivals can be extremely easy and useful way of identifying what makes yours distinctive

Unique Activities (or complex combinations) allowing that firm alone to deliver the customer value proposition. (Activity-system map described as What is Strategy?)

Developing a Strategy Statement

First step requires careful evaluation of industry landscape

Understanding customer needs

Segmenting customers

Identifying unique ways of creating value for the ones the firm choose to serve

Creative part of developing strategy is finding the sweet spot (see above)

Process of developing the strategy and then crafting the statement that captures its essence is a readily communicable manner should involve employees in all parts of the company and at all levels of the hierarchy

Wording of the strategy statement should be worked through painstaking detail (most important part of Strategy development process)

(Leaving No Room for Misinterpretation)


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