Strategy is one of the most overused and misunderstood words in business. Everyone is striving to be strategic. But what does that mean, and why is that important?
We believe that everyone is strategic in some manner. Yes, we will admit, some are naturally more strategic than others. But take a step back from business for the moment and think of a game you love to play against another person or team; chess, baseball, football, monopoly, whatever gets those competitive juices flowing. What is the ultimate objective of that game? It is to win. In preparation for this game or match, you are likely trying to determine what you need to do to win and how you will make that happen. That is strategy.
Let us take the game of soccer as an example. What are the coaches thinking and doing as they prepare for an upcoming match against their rival? We believe they are likely examining the following:
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of our team? What do we need to do to improve to increase our chances of winning?
- What do we know about our rival? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Which player(s) do we need to pay attention to and shut down?
- What should we do to exploit our strengths and take advantage of their weaknesses to win the match?
As the coaches work through these questions and others, they might identify different ways to increase the likelihood of winning against this rival. For example, perhaps their team is unreal at ball control but is not as fast as their rival. What could they do? They could focus on controlling the tempo of the match, as they know they will not win if the match becomes a foot race. Or they could focus on practice drills with the team to increase their explosiveness, speed, and endurance. The coaches will make a series of choices that will define what they will do and how they will do it to make for a competitive match. The coaches do not know for certain that these series of choices they have made will ensure a ‘W’. But, they have formulated a strategy to help them win.
WHAT IS STRATEGY?
Strategy is a series of deliberate choices you have made that you believe will help you win within an uncertain future. These are strategic choices that are made simultaneously, similar to the choices made by our soccer coaches.
Now think back to that game you love to play against others. Subconsciously or consciously, you are going through the same process our coaches did in our soccer example. You begin assessing a host of factors to determine what you will need to do and how you will do it to win. You are being strategic. Those series of choices you have made even before you have started to play the game is your strategy.
When the game begins, and you will start to assess:
Given all of that, what do I need to do to beat them and win?
PLAYING TO WIN
As you work through this assessment, you continue to make deliberate choices to increase your odds of winning. For example, do you stick with your original plan because it looks like you are going to win, do you need to take advantage of an opportunity that you were not anticipating, or is your competitor playing the game differently than they have in the past? As you do this, you are being strategic. The creation of your strategy is not a one-time event.
If you do this well (and better than your competition), you likely do get the ‘W’. There will also be times when you do not play a great game and may still get the ‘W’. Either because you were lucky, or your competitor also did not play well. Then there may be times where you truly just go out and play the game and walk away with the ‘W’. If you think back, you have likely had success in your game in all three ways. However, if you were an outsider, who would you bet on?
YES, YOU NEED A STRATEGY
So, how does this translate back to your business and the reasons why you need a strategy?
- Recognize that you are competing, and you need to win. A ‘W’ in this context is attracting someone (a customer, a funder, etc.) in choosing your business. What are you doing and how are you doing it so that someone chooses your business?
- If you don’t have a strategy, you might be lucky and will still get the ‘W’, but do you want to gamble that your competitor(s) have not figured out what to do to beat you so that someone you are both going after chooses them.
- Understanding who your competition is, their strengths and weaknesses and assessing competitors’ reactions will assist in maintaining your strategic advantage.
- It also goes back to the adage, ‘If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.’. So, unless you are Scrooge McDuck and are sitting on piles of cash, do you have the resources to leave it to chance?
Strategy does not have to be complicated. It is about choosing what you will and will not do to win. The truth is when you think of how strategy influences decision-making, it becomes clear why it is an integral part of business success. Businesses that take the time to develop a strategy become laser-focused and set their course to compete and play to win.
At Stack’d Consulting, we help bold leaders transform and grow their business through building a strategy and game plan to untap their potential. For more information on our services and how we can help your business, contact us.