Strategy Confronts a Future with No Guarantees
By Ann Elliott
There is confusion about the difference in a plan and a strategy. Plans are useful. Strategies are scary. When you choose a strategy, you are choosing a direction that requires you to make decisions that eliminate possibilities and options. Think crossing the Rubicon. The future outcomes are unknowable. Planning, on the other hand, is knowable and doable. It is based typically on annual budgets. The plan does not answer the question “why” an organization does what it does. The plan logically lays out the steps to reach an initiative or goal. It is better have a plan than not have a plan. A strategy answers the question of where you want to play and how you want to win playing there. The customer is the focus of a strategy. Who do you intend to serve and how do you intend to win? You must also be clear about where you do not want to play. Simply put, who is your ideal client? A strategy is designed to increase the odds of success. It is not meant to eliminate risks. It is no small feat to assess what you want to achieve and determine how realistic it is to try to achieve it. No guarantees. Until you see the outcome of a strategy, you cannot know if it was a good choice. There is no perfect, predictable strategy. That’s what makes it scary. Also, strategies are long term in nature not quick fix with immediate results. To embark on a strategy, it is important to have a logical basis for the decision. It is also critical to communicate clearly and often to everyone at all levels of your organization the logic of your strategy. In adopting a strategy, take into account the following: your industry, your customers, your competition and your capabilities. For example, the internet has changed the way we do business. Customers rely on inbound marketing to make buying decisions. Cold calling and telemarketing are less effective ways of selling. Your competition, no doubt, has discovered this fact. Does your strategy address this major shift? Make the best of both a strategy and a plan with these steps:
- Recognize the difference in a strategy and a plan
- Be willing to adopt an imperfect strategy that has a reasonable chance of success.
- Make a good plan that supports the strategy.
- Test and measure the results.
- Remember that getting and keeping customers is the focus of a strategy
- Watch the business environment vigilantly
- Change direction when the business environment changes
Share this resource