3 Reasons Developing a Strategy for Your Business Could Drive You Mad

November 10, 2011

Strategy Concepts

What is it about developing a strategy for our businesses that makes the task to many so unattractive.  We might even say frightening?

Here are 3 reasons I think business strategy makes us nuts.

First, there is too much tech talk. 

The idea of strategy we know grew from case studies of large corporations.

Perhaps the cornerstone publication on strategy, the famous Harvard Business Review article by Michael Porter, is still a great reference, but it is complex.  It uses Japanese global firms and airlines as examples – businesses with millions (billions?) of dollars and tens of thousands of employees.  The article discusses operational effectiveness and sustainable differentiation.  Good stuff.  Great concepts.

What is the true utility for smaller businesses?  Businesses without a “strategic planning team” or the innovation leader?  How can we benefit from this type of strategy guidance?  I think it’s difficult.

I think of my mom and her retail business.  She didn’t think core competency nor innovator’s dilemma.  She wasn’t interested in how Southwest Airlines created competitive competitive advantage through a 737-only strategy.  And these were the only types of resources she thought were available to her (she searched Google).

For her, developing a business strategy was just too complex and not applicable to her.  She couldn’t see that she needed a strategy for her business.

Barrier number 1 – we can’t see how to apply the big company concepts.

Second,most ‘how to’ guidance is not a road map but a satellite images

Cruising the net, you’ll probably also find that any guidance on “how to develop a strategy” is commonly presented in a very complex way.  I found a few examples where the authors used pages of text to outline the steps for developing a business strategy.

It looks so difficult.  So many analyses – customers, cash flow, suppliers, SWOT, core competencies, vision, mission (how could I forget those?). . . the list can go on and on.  Well, it does in some places.

So what we are given is not a simple, straight-forward set of directions, but a wide angle view of all the possible things to investigate/roads to take.

Again, thinking of mom.  There was no way she could see through to the end of the list.  I think also of the general managers and product managers that I have coached over the years, they are knee-deep in the day-to-day needs of the business.  The last thing they wanted was a huge checklist (or template . . . see below) that needed to be completed.

Barrier number 2 – there’s just too much to do.

Third, the tools don’t fit the job

Because of all the tech talk and complex processes, we often latch on to the freely available tools.

As discussed in another post, here, because Business Plan templates are widely available, most of us jump on them.  We assume that that’s what everyone uses for their strategy.  And, based on the number of Business Planning selling websites, I guess it’s true.

And when we find one that seems to fit our situation, we hammer through that thing, filling out tables and purchasing patterns, segmenting customers and making great charts.

And in the end, when we expect the genie to pop out of the bottle, it doesn’t.  There’s no magic in the template.  The Business Plan template doesn’t fit the job of a business strategy.

Barrier number 3 – we tried this strategy thing in the past and it didn’t work.

So, what can you do?  Take a look at this post on the simple steps I believe can be used to develop a strategy for your business.   Read through that post and leave a comment on your thoughts about a more simple way to develop a strategy for your business.

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