The Leap to a Strategic Future

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Enter the address for a store in Google Maps and it returns a map for the vicinity with a red bubble highlighting the exact location of the store. If you need directions to get there, you enter your starting point. Google Maps provides two or three suggested routes and the respective turn-by-turn driving directions. You need to identify the destination first before instructions could be provided on how to get there.

In developing the strategy for a business, many start with an analysis of where the company is today. For example, an assessment of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). With that information, the company identifies and evaluates the strategic goals to ascertain viability. This approach limits a company’s thinking because the SWOT analysis sets constraints on what is perceived as viable. There is a tendency to apply the SWOT data to filter the potential options for the company. A common argument would go like this, “We would like to get into this market but it is going to take a lot of effort because we have no experience in that region.” Though the argument seems logical, but the lack of experience shouldn’t be a deterrent if the market has high potential.

The above approach to strategy development works if the company is content with a “planned” future. Its future is extrapolated from where the company is today. Alternatively, a visionary approach creates a “strategic” future that is bold and revolutionary. The approach is:

  1. Develop a vision for the future
    Starting with the mission and values for the company, develop a vision by challenging industry standards and market boundaries, and exploring opportunities to differentiate the company from its competition.
  2. Identify the strategic goals
    Develop the goals for the vision. Be specific with the desired results for each goal. It is difficult to select the best course of action if the results are not clear. Prioritize the goals.
  3. Identify the driving force
    The driving force is the key determinant that is behind product and market decisions. Market needs and technology are examples of a driving force. Determine which driving force best supports the future strategic goals. Identify what the current driving force is for the company.
  4. Describe new products, markets and operational needs
    Determine if the strategy comprises new products and markets. Describe the operational capabilities required for delivering the desired results.
  5. Review status quo
    Assess where the business is today by reviewing its successes and failures, competition, SWOT, and other factors that affect its current performance. Determine how the company could utilize its strengths and assets to accomplish the future goals.
  6. Evaluate strategy
    Identify gaps in the capabilities necessary to execute the strategy. Evaluate the strategy for consistency, feasibility, risks and rewards.
  7. Develop action plan
    Based on the goals and information compiled throughout the strategy development process, develop a clear action plan with well defined timeline and accountability.

Strategy describes what a business wants to become. In order to avoid rejecting good ideas prematurely, bring in the findings from the SWOT analysis later in the process to evaluate the strategy. Google Maps won’t be able to provide the directions if it doesn’t know where you want to go. Don’t limit your thinking to a planned future; take the leap to a strategic future.

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