How to do strategy. Avoid tactics, have clear goals, direction, and review the situation for your relative capabilities and resources then go and win. It’s how I look at my tennis matches each week. Work or play, strategy gets me from here to where I want to go. The problem with articles on strategy, and indeed writing about it, is that it can easily stray off onto other topics – especially if you are in marketing. So, let’s avoid detailed marketing plans and keep to the essence of strategy. It derives from the Greek word strategia “generalship”, strategos – stratos “army” and agein “to lead” (Oxford dictionary).
Good Strategies means Choice
Generals, CEOs or you and me when we have done “good strategy” is one thing i.e. after the event, you can look back at success. But what intrigues me is the real skill in strategy is being put into a business or any situation and deep in the thick of it, producing a strategy that works. How do you do this? So, what do you start with? What do you do and not do? In a competitive world, where you and I are busy, and impatient, what do we remind ourselves to do, under pressure to be “strategic” but not to procrastinate, or equally to be impetuous? And why bother?
The Essence of Strategy
My answer to this is, first, be clear what your objective is. This is not a strategy, but you need a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Strategy is about getting from where you are now to that goal. You may set goals of course. I do with my work and play. I write stuff down. And then like a tube map a strategy gets me there. As this excellent video says strategy is about asking yourself 4 questions:
- Where do we compete?
- What unique value do we bring?
- What resources and capabilities do we utilise to deliver that value?
- How do we sustain this?
My shorthand for this is, REVIEW, USPs, RESOURCES, IMPLEMENTATION
A point here on the importance of focus. The entrepreneurs and business people I admire are good at decision-making – they thrive on it. Nick Hixson has a great video on it here. Follow the 80/20 rule i.e. the Pareto Principle that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.
The great generals who mastered strategy all had vision, were decisive and were great leaders. Notable military strategist include Sun Tzu who wrote The Art of War, Napoleon probably the greatest modern general, and later President/General Eisenhower, to name just three. There are great political strategists such as Gandhi a visionary, Martin Luther King and right back to Aristotle. In two sports I love cricket, Mike Brearley was a brilliant captain, he is interviewed here. Roger Federer is a brilliant tennis player, who makes thousands of decisions and is above all a great sports strategist, as described in this video. I feature him on my strategy Pinterest board here.
Find some Tools that work for you
The biggest challenge I find is staying in control. Don’t let tools, templates or even agencies and advisors take over. When you read about Napoleon or even Branson and alike, they wrote their own script. From years of working with agencies and suppliers in marketing and indeed across all areas of business, I am wary of experts. But I also welcome genuine innovative help. As Steve Barker, my colleague in our enterprise TakeControl says, you stay in control. The best advice is to always keep your objective clearly in mind. Henry Mintzberg is a marketing hero of mine, for his Emergent Strategy philosophy of adapting your strategy – being agile – to customer and market conditions. Here are some practical strategy tools for you:
- For new businesses and startups see Dorset Business Angels Resources page here
- My mind-map is simple way to plan your strategy here
- A more detailed strategy from Professor Malcolm McDonald – How To Create a Strategic Marketing Plan here
- For CIM Members – How to Create a Strategic Marketing Plan here And How to Deliver a Smart Strategy here
- 12 MANAGE has some great tools – create a free account here
More Resources for You
Hixsons Business Advisors – Strategy Nick Hixson, Peter Drucker Society Europe Associate.
The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy – Michael E. Porter Professor Harvard University.
How Strategy can really work – by Roger Martin.
What is Strategy? By David Kryscynski.
Good Strategy Bad Strategy – Richard P. Rumelt.
What if Peter Drucker Taught Enterprise 2.0 Strategy?
Of strategies, deliberate and emergent – Henry Mintzberg.
What is Strategy? Michael E Porter, Harvard Professor.
Strategy Blogs, Twitter Sites and Good Places to Visit for Thought Leader Content
The Thinkers 50 – launched in 2001 the recognised global ranking of management thinkers. It has been published every two years since.
Twitter Top 100 – most followers
Prospect Magazine World Thinkers 2015 – most influential list – includes Russell Brand at #4 and Thomas Picketty at #1.
Strategy Marketing Content
Content Marketing Institute – developing a strategy
Strategy History including military strategy
Sun Tzu – The Art of War documentary video
War and Business Strategy – the parallels.
33 War Strategies that help you win in life.
Good luck and as I said…How to do strategy. Avoid tactics, have clear goals, direction, and review the situation for your relative capabilities and resources then go and win. As Sun Tzu says, “In the midst of chaos there is always opportunity”, I would say, that is especially where there is opportunity!
Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited