Business Strategy Development (Part 4) – Making the Hard Choices

March 14, 2012

4 Step Strategy


You must choose a path

You must choose a path

Time to choose a path

Finishing this critical step in the development of your business growth strategy is a capstone event.

Or is it a cornerstone?

Well, at any rate, it’s an important milestone in the creating your strategy. Why? Because after this, you’ll be taking your strategy to the street. You’ll be “doing”, no longer analyzing. Once this step is done, you are onto action.

Complete this step and you’ll have your strategic story – that simple to tell, simple to understand, ‘get everyone on the same page’ strategy.

But, first, a Recap

As you have been working through the 4-Step Business Growth Strategy Plan here on StrategyDIY, you’ll have:

  • First, an amazing new collection of key, relevant, business insight using some system to capture key information about your business – market, customers, suppliers, etc.).
  • Second, a list of the key/fundamental business questions and some great market research that will help you answer those questions.
  • Third, a solid start to seeing how different pieces of information (from insights, market research, internal business analysis) and patterns relate to one another.

and fourth, you’ll have a story that is starting to build.

And the story, will become the strategy.

OK, What’s the step? Hard Choices and Prioritization.

In this part of the process, what we are looking to do is draw some real strong conclusions from the analysis that will give us direction. One way to think through the story is the following:

We are looking for the Key Issues for the business

The Key Issues will lead to “must achieve” objectives

Those “must achieve” objectives will give us the “must do” activities

This step is all about reading the results of the research, analyzing what the research tells us about the answers to our starting key questions (and any new questions developed along the way) and then identify those top Key Issues for the business.

Let’s look at some examples of Key Issues from past projects:

  • Accelerating/aggressive local competition, especially in a key product-line for a small retail business
  • Lack of physician knowledge about a rare medical condition
  • Decreasing population in the local community and aging of the population

Thinking back, these are things that we’ve called “trends”, also discussed in this post: Fact Finding vs. Trend Spotting.

What “must we achieve”?

When we have Key Issues identified (3 is a good number), then we’ll have a next step to determine what are the “Must Achieve” objectives? These answers, too, will come in part from the research we conducted. We don’t have to grab them from thin air.

And, it’s important to note that these are not actions. Not tactics. These are things that must be accomplished to address the key issue. Our measure of success.

So, some examples that might be helpful:

  • Must maintain clear product leadership in local retail market for key product-line
  • Must create a clear “need to treat” mindset of key physicians on rare medical condition
  • Must modify product line to fit long-term trend of aging local population with declining income

What “must we do”?

So, now that we have Key Issues and our “Must Achieve” goals, we can outline some broad “Must Do” activities.

Examples of “Must Do”:

  • Must consistently beat competition to introduce latest product innovations in key product-line
  • Must give people suffering from the rare medical condition an opportunity to tell their story to physicians to seek treatment
  • Must have new products designed and on-market in 6 months

It’s important to note that you will most likely have 2 or more “must do” items listed for one “must achieve”. There is no required one-to-one limit.

This is the story of your business growth strategy.

If you take the pieces of the process above, and put them together you will have your strategy ‘elevator’ speech. Here’s one example.

“Mom’s Retail Emporium is facing accelerating/aggressive local competition, especially in our key product-line. So, we must maintain clear product leadership in local retail market for key product-line to survive. And so, we will consistently beat our competition to introduce latest product innovations in this key product-line.”

That’s it.

Does it feel like something you could remember as a business leader? That your team could remember? That could become a rallying cry for your organization?

OK, it’s simple, but that’s what we want. Simple, able to be communicated, memorable, aligning . . . all those things.

But, maybe something is missing? Actually, what we will do? Ah, that’s the final step. Stay tuned.

So, what can you do now?

Well, you have to make this analysis. Sit with your team, your advisers, your husband/wife/son/daughter/mom/whoever, and work through all of the new information you have collected – questions, customer info/news, competitive information – and find those common themes. Find where information is coming together. Those trends and Key Issues your business faces or can take advantage of.

You will have to make some tough decisions to select your top 3 Key Issues.

When you have done this, you can start to expand the detail on the Key Issue to “Must Achieve” goals and “Must Do” activities.

When you have created your strategy story, come back and post it here in comments to get some forum feedback.

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