3 Things That Shape A Good Strategy

It’s the time of year when many business owners and their teams are doing their business planning for 2012.

So in my last 2 posts we talked about the 4 hallmarks of bad strategy and the 2 reasons why there is so much bad strategy.1 

Now I want to focus on the underlying structure of a good strategy and Rumelt’s views on the 3 components of that.

1. Understanding the nature of the challenge

I may be making a “blinding statement of the obvious” when I say that it’s not possible to develop a strategy which will be successful, unless you understand the challenge.

But I’m also probably correct in saying that no strategy – even the ones that later proved unsuccessful – has been approved without the key players believing they did understand the challenge.

Typically the situations which create problems or challenges for companies are complex. A good “diagnosis”, to use Rumelt’s term, simplifies the complexity by identifying those aspects of the situation that are the critical ones. This makes failing to face the real problem impossible (see the first post in this series).

I think that really understanding the challenge requires business owners to:
• Refuse to replace thorough analysis with positive (or wishful) thinking.
• Commit time and resources to a completing that thorough analysis.
• Combine the product of trained analytical skills with their intuition.
• Remain objective in the face of other (opposing) ideas.

2. An integrated approach for dealing with the critical issues

Rumelt describes this as a guiding policy for overcoming the critical issues.

I believe that in order to develop this integrated approach, choices have to be made about which goals to pursue. This helps avoid one of the causes of bad strategy.

And immediately a company embarks on this route they take a giant step away from the template style of planning that Rumelt criticizes so much.

The approach we’ve used successfully for some years now requires conscious thought being given to the implications of the strategy for all functions in the company – not only marketing and sales but also operations, finance, HR and systems.

Our approach raises, and answers, questions like how will we finance growth; what skills and experience will we have to develop or hire to take us to the next level?

3. Coordinated actions that translate the integrated approach into results

Rumelt provides an interesting example of coordinated actions. He talks about Nvidia’s strategy for capturing leadership of the 3-D graphics chip industry.

The CEO realized that releasing a new, better chip in much less time than their competitors was the key to success. That became the company’s guiding principle.

The coordinated actions were – forming 3 development teams working on overlapping schedules; investing in infrastructure to prevent delays in fabricating chips and developing drivers; and regaining control of the development of drivers.

It’s easy to see how these 3 actions supported Nvidia’s guiding policy/integrated approach.

The strategy worked brilliantly for 10 years. But, as we know, no strategy, however brilliant, will remain unchallenged forever.

4. Wrapping up

Three apparently simple things underpin a good strategy. But, as I’ve said before, strategy is like all of those other things in life that seem simple but yet are not. Did I tell you about my golf swing……..

1 The posts summarised an article written by Richard Rumelt, published in the McKinsey Quarterly and based on his recent book “Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters”

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Tags: actions, analysis, budgeting, business owners, business planning, challenge, company, Jim Stewart, Planning, ProfitPATH, strategy

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