Having both been a corporate strategy director as well as a P&L owner, I have direct experience in creating and executing strategies for all kinds of companies and in many different markets and geographies. For several years now, I have been lucky enough to be lecturing in and facilitating workshops on Strategy, Innovation, and Strategic Execution in both educational settings (MIT Sloan, IME) and directly in corporates. I have decided to pull together my teaching notes and other materials into a series of posts here. I’ll cover the major tools I think everyone needs to have in their Strategy Toolbox, a little bit about how and when to use these tools, the right combination of these tools and other concepts, as well as some topics on execution and measurement of your success.
What is Strategy? – Strategy is not rocket science (trust me!), but it can be complicated. We all have ideas in our head as to what strategy means; it might be planning, analysis, direction, or even beliefs, a pattern, learning… Howard Mintzberg said it well in 1987 when he summed it up in “The Strategy Concept I: 5 Ps for Strategy”:
• Plan– a consciously intended course of action
• Ploy– a manoeuvre intended to outwit an opponent or competitor
• Pattern– a pattern in a stream of decisions over time
• Position– a means of locating an organisation in its environment
• Perspective– an ingrained way of seeing the world
These are not definitive definitions, but simply a good way to see strategy and make sure you are thinking about it from a number of perspectives. This is the first tool for your Strategy Toolbox. The first two Ps are fairly obvious; a Plan of action or a Ploy to outwit a competitor. Pattern speaks more to learning while you develop your strategy over time. It is always important to be conscious of your position in your market, something we will talk about in a later article. The final P – Perspective is the most interesting, taking an integrative view of Strategy – assembling all the tools and schools of thought on Strategy into an integrated view of your organisation, your competition, your environment, what you know, and importantly, what you don’t know.
As we’ve seen, Strategy actually forms in three different ways; prescriptive– tools telling you how to form your strategy, descriptive – describes how strategies actually form, and integrative – any or all of the above, at the proper time. Obviously, in the real world, an integrative approach is the best way forward, but it is important to understand the tools that have developed over time to both prescribe and describe strategy formulation first.
In this coming series we will discuss the most famous and important tools every strategist should have in their Strategy Toolkit. We will also discuss a number of other concepts around Strategy Formulation, Strategic Execution, and measurement of success.
I’d love to hear your feedback and don’t hesitate to get in touch if there is a particular topic you would like to see in this series or to discuss directly!