5 Steps to Build a Strategy

The corporate role is not to see over the horizon but rather to imagine what one might find there, and begin preparations accordingly. This frees the crew to focus its full attention on the shoals and treasures that are already in view. ~Michael E. Raynor

Strategy is an organizational hot potato. I see the ownership of organizational “strategy” being tossed from the CEO to senior leaders, to managers, to board members, and so the cycle continues. It doesn’t matter if the organization is for-profit or not-for-profit; the challenge of “strategy” seems to perplex all sectors.

I believe part of this challenge is coming to a shared understanding as to what is strategy. There are many definitions (one source indicated a Google search for strategy resulted in 85 million definitions). Sue Barrett, a sales consultant from Australia, researched many definitions and concluded that this definition encapsulates the similarities she found.

Being strategic means ensuring the organization’s core competence is consistently focusing on those directional choices that will best move the organization toward its new future, with the least risk and in the most orderly fashion. [Note, she didn’t say no risk.]

The strategy comes from the leader(s) as Michael E. Raynor described: “not to see over the horizon but rather to imagine what one might find there, and begin preparations accordingly.” Or as Sue Barrett said, “focusing on directional choices…” That may be easier said than done. Barrett provides 5 steps to help map out what a strategy might look like.

  1. Decide what challenge(s) you’re solving: Once there is a clear sense of the challenges being addressed, they can start being addressed.
  2. Answer the value proposition question: “How can we provide a uniquely valuable customer (client, member, etc.) experience that drives our success?” Look at your core competence and decide what the value proposition is. Make sure it answers the question. [Andy Stanley provides some thoughtful insights about being uniquely better. He says that “every industry (again, both for-profit and not-for-profit) has shared assumptions. Every industry is ‘stuck.’ However, somebody, somewhere is messing with the rules to the prevailing model. Someone is creating a uniquely better”]
  3. Know where you’re starting from: Once you’re clear on your challenge, it’s important to have an accurate picture of the current reality.
  4. Be clear about your new future: In difficult times it’s always easy to retreat into survival mode. However, having a clear, bold sense of the future gives employees a positive frame and offers an antidote to fear.
  5. Face the obstacles and determine the brutal facts: Now look at the possible obstacles to the vision in a dispassionate/objective way. What are the brutal facts you can control and which ones can’t you control? Facing the obstacles in a clear-minded manner allows the organization to assess the situation well and take appropriate action to overcome them.

 Create your strategy by imagining what might be over the horizon, and begin preparations for a uniquely valuable customer experience.