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2 Common Problems in Business Strategy Development

August 19, 2011

Strategy Concepts

In our quest for simplifying small business strategy development, it might be interesting to consider two common barriers to successful strategy design.  I will guess that most of us have either suffered from or seen people afflicted by these conditions.  The first affects our ability to start; the second, our ability to draw insightful conclusions and therefore have an effective/differentiating strategy.

Some Common “Ailments” in Strategic Planning

Complexity Meltdown

If you have had a chance to read the “About Me” page, you’ll know that complexity had my mom ‘motionless’ trying to decide her next move for her small retail business.  She was trapped due to all the general advice regarding the “all the things to do” in order to make a strategy for her business.  It just didn’t seem possible that a sole proprietor with a couple of part-time workers could possible get all that “stuff” done to make a strategy for her business.

This was paralysis due to the perceived complexity and breadth of work that needed to be done to have a strategy.  But, when we cut right to the chase, there were just a few questions that she really needed to answer and a few steps to take to get those answers, in order to provide peace of mind and a plan of action.

How did we break through the meltdown?

First, we laid out the key questions my mom thought were the most important to answer for her business. This is my recommendation for starting any strategic process.  Just list the questions in your head.  I guess 90% of the time, those will be important things to answer in a final strategy.  Those questions were:

  • Should I discontinue/reduce/diversify away from product line ‘x’?
  • Should I engage a different demographic population (younger women)?
  • Should I add this new product line?
  • Should I enter this collaboration with a local merchant?
  • Why are my competitors doing better in this economy?

Look, in my mind, you, the business owner, know the most.  Yes, you are very close to the business and can take value from an outsider’s perspective, but as leaders we have a sense of what’s important or, as is often said, “what keeps us up at night.”

Template Mania

“Template mania” can be tough to diagnose, but  it can hit with a fury and be very destructive.   “Template mania” is driven by the belief that in simply following a business plan template (probably found online) and completing the pages or the chapters, a strategy will be come forth with the last dotted ‘t’.  The affected person often demonstrate a tremendous amount of work over an extended period of time just in the business plan template.  The goal is to complete the steps.  To have the document done.  And speed is of the essence.

This ailment, too, has a simple solution.  Say out-loud “It’s not the template, it’s the process!”  Again, please,  “It’s not the template, it’s the process!”  And just one more, “It’s not the template, it’s the process!”  When the hex is lifted you will have the chance to stop and assess the process, the analyses, any preliminary conclusions, etc.

Be Aware!

So, we all need to be aware of these two impediments to successful business strategy development.  With “Complexity Meltdown” we have a situation where we can’t get started; we can’t find the first small steps on the path.  Treat “CM” with pen and paper and list all the key questions you or your team have regarding the business.  With “Template Mania” we have extreme energy focused on the activities and templates, but not on the analysis and conclusions.   Treat “TM” with some soft chanting of “It’s not the template, it’s the process!”

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