We all know that strategy is important. It is how we use our limited resources to try and get results.  The effectiveness of our plans depends on how good our strategies are. The better our strategy, the more we can get major gains and really turn our businesses and lives around. 

But what is strategy really? And how do we approach it?

The two most recommended books on the subject are excellent primers and give a clear workable framework to approach strategic thinking and planning. They are ‘Good Strategy/Bad Strategy’ and ‘Playing to Win’ and they form the basis of this post.

Strategy is simply the art of getting from point A to point B. It is the plan of action designed to achieve a long-term goal. A great strategy applies strength to the area of greatest opportunity.

Bad strategy deals in fluff. You know them, you have seen them before. “Our strategy is to become the best in our field and gain market share”. It is aspirational at best and ultimately means nothing tangible.

Good strategy on the other hand engages with defined goals, real obstacles and concrete solutions. A good strategy contains the kernel of truth, an understanding of the essence of the situation at hand. You have to clearly define what the problem is, propose a guiding policy of how to address the problem, and then a cohesive set of actions that would tackle said problem to create the new desired state.

If you have those 3 things in place, you have a good strategy.

There are 5 questions that must be continually addressed to shape strategy.

What is our winning aspiration?

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

The main point of strategy is to get you somewhere. So, what are your goals? What are you trying to achieve? What is your idea future? And how can you measure your progress towards that goal?

You could set your goal as something like, to be one of the top 5 firms in our industry, turning over 100 million every year. 

Where shall we play and how shall we win?

Where do you stand a chance? Where can you compete? What are you good at? What city will you based in? What is your niche? Who are you focused on? How can you provide massive value to them? What competitive advantage and compelling value proposition will give you the unique right to win?

What capabilities must be in place?

You won’t win by accident. You must have the know-how, skills, resources and relationships to be able to deliver and wow the market. You may not have all of them now, but you can build a plan to get them in place. 

What management systems are required?

What is not measured can’t be managed. To take sustained action towards your winning aspiration, you need checks and balances, incentives and monitoring. It is the only way to ensure consistent progress and eventual success.

These 5 questions are the key prompts that will help you craft a strategy that is unique to your situation and leverages your key strengths. It will give you a personal concrete roadmap to your goals.  

When you have such a clear and robust business strategy, it becomes the north star that your brand strategy identity follows. The next question becomes, how do you generate the right impression, the right message and positioning to your audience so they readily adopt your offering and grow your business?