Do we still need business strategies?

The Death of Business Strategy?


It seems business strategies are dying and so too the strategist.  As I read popular strategy and internet-business blogs, guru messages converge on the imperative to act.  To move.  To blog.  To get something out there.  Top strategy books for entrepreneurs have titles like “Ready, Fire, Aim”.  Internet business is positioned as a get-started and get-feedback industry.  Adjust as you go.  Just take action.  Figure it out later.

But is this advice really sounding the death of strategy?

At first, I really thought so.  I was struggling, honestly, about the value of a strategy-teaching business in this take action world.  I feared the death of strategy.

But, maybe we are not at the end of strategy, but at the end of the classic strategy and strategist as we have come to know them since the strategy hey-days.

We are in a connected world, where access to information, customers, suppliers – all key stakeholders in any business – is at our fingertips.  We can get feedback at an amazing rate, competitors can assess opportunities and assess our weaknesses as fast as we can. It’s no secret that the speed of business is in hyper-drive and at this speed, it’s natural to think that the value of a “business strategy” is gone.

I think this is a dangerous trap – believing that because business is so rapid and dynamic that there is no value in business strategy – when, in fact, the pace of business is defining a new need for strategy.

The New Need for Strategy

As discussed in an earlier post (here), strategy is simply “An integrated set of actions” to accomplish some goal.  Strategy isn’t some abstract set of ideas; if done well it is a concrete set of actions aligned to achieve a major objective.  As a business leader, isn’t that what you want?

So, if you believe that having a clear set of prioritized actions is still valuable, then we still need strategy.  So what’s the “new” part?

The pace of business gives little time to trudge through a highly analytical process to delivery the strategic tome of the past.  You need those actions fast!  Yesterday is best!  Get to action before the competition; leverage that new opportunity now!  You still need the actions, you just need them now.

So, simplicity is the need.  You need a simple process that can be executed quickly that can deliver the sound strategy – the clear integrated actions to achieve your absolute goal.

The strategy needs to be simple; to be easily communicated so that all key players (employees, partners, suppliers, etc.) are aligned and acting together.  Well, basically, the plan needs to be clear and simple enough to do.  And 100 pages of slides isn’t usually simple enough.

The New Business Gurus on Strategy

So, then, what about the new models of business?  These “get to action” advisors?  Are they touting the death of strategy?

I don’t believe so.  As I read and study some of the books and systems, I find most follow a simple strategy building process that fits the connected world we are in (if you are internet business focused, I do have one of my most valuable sources listed in the Resources page).  Though most don’t mention “how to build a strategy” there are a few, common, basic steps that might be familiar:

  • Internal research (looking at yourself and/or your business and assessing the situation; identifying key questions to answer)
  • External data collection focused on relevant information to answer the key questions (not a random walk across all potential stake-holders to complete a complex situation assessment – targeted work)
  • Data Analysis (developing answers and insight on the key questions) and deciding direction
  • Action

That’s it.  Does it look like basic strategic process?  Yeah, it does.  So, even the new-world business building systems, are based on sound strategy development.  But, what you’ll find is they preach speed!

So, the question is not whether or not you need a business strategy, but how fast you can build it.

Do you agree?  Give your thoughts in Feedback below.

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