What’s Strategy?

Strategy is a much overused and abused word. Here’s what I mean by it:

Strategy is the set of 3-5 year plans that say how a business will keep ahead of its competitors by making (usually tough) choices on the use of scarce resources like its brands, retail networks, human and financial capital.  The aim of a strategy is to deliver enough of whatever key stakeholders value and  to chart progress towards that.

Strategy isn’t vision; vision is a desirable future state for which the key stakeholders yearn.

Strategy isn’t mission; mission is about a company’s purpose in life.

Strategy isn’t tactics; tactics are the lower level nuts and bolts by which the higher level strategy is delivered.

Strategy isn’t descriptive either. Strategy is about issues, often issues that can make or break a business. Strategic issues are often answerable with yes or no because they are first about the what and the why. The how comes second. Thus:

  • should we buy/divest this business to further our goals?
  • should we change the way we go to market?
  • can we compete successfully against the new kid on the block? How?
  • do the top performers in this segment make money, and why don’t we?

My Strategic Work

Not every assignment is a soup-to-nuts strategic overhaul. Some clients will have one specific strategic issue they want help with, others will be seeking a review of one function or product group.  Recent project examples from my direct clients include:

  • re-assessing the long-established go-to-market model for an age care business, with particular emphasis on distribution, service and sales development
  • scoping the pressures and opportunities posed by the world’s megatrends like ageing, urbanisation and the rise of China and India for the client’s core consumer product. This was input to strategic planning for the Board of a $1b+ industry
  • defining commercial elements for the launch of a personal care innovation, aligned to insights about the real customer and consumer benefits
  • identifying key factors impacting the supply and demand of student accommodation in NZ and the implications for a property owner exposed to this market
  • understanding how other countries have delivered low cost housing and what lessons flow from the shifting mix of their housing providers and finance sources.