Over the years I’ve often been told I’m good at strategy and am a natural strategic thinker. Personality tests, such as Gallup Strengths Finder, consistently tell me I have a strategic mind. But what is strategy? And what makes somebody ‘good’ at strategy?
I think at its core strategy is nothing more than applying your greatest strength to your greatest opportunity. I likely read that somewhere but I couldn’t begin to tell you where, but I’m certain I’m not the first person to come up with that.
But if strategy is so easily defined, what makes it so difficult? In working with clients I find a few common roadblocks to good strategy. In this post, I will present three common difficulties in developing a strategy. I will leave difficulties in executing strategy for another post.
1. Confusion regarding what constitutes strategy
Crush the competition is not a strategy. It’s an aspiration. Yet it’s normal for company strategy statements to contain language about market share, being the best at something, or setting industry standards. All fine aspirations, but if your strategy doesn’t indicate how you will achieve your aspirations, it’s not strategy.
2. Lack of clarity on strengths.
Any leader can provide a picture of strengths and weaknesses off the cuff. With our clients we use a few exercises, including a ‘strike zone’ exercise, to refine the leadership team’s clarity regarding their strengths as a company. As Collins explained in the famous discussion of his Hedgehog concept, great companies go all-in on the thing they are passionate about and can be the best at.
Good strategy demands making decisions and runs the risk of disappointing people. There are always implied no’s to good strategy, and leaders who are too afraid of disappointing others will not commit to a definitive course of action.