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How many pages does it take to make a good business strategy?

August 24, 2011

Cases, Strategy Concepts

 

Is it the document that’s important?

Is this good strategy?

Does size/volume of the document determine the value of a business plan or business strategy?

We might think the answer is “yes” based on our reviews of business plan templates available online and or if we have experience with formal business strategy systems (e.g. some types of consultants, but, to clarify, not all).  It often seems that if there is an enormous amount of information in a strategy document then the analysis must be thorough and comprehensive and, clearly, result in a great strategy.  I have seen seen strategy documents from third party firms that were in excess of 300 presentation slides.  At the end of the day, how much value is really retained from such a tome?

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, business strategy guidance is loaded with templates and activities.  Common guidance is more focused on “what to do” instead of “why we are doing”.  Not to say that a strategic document can’t be valuable, but we cannot make the assumption that the existence of a document implies a good strategy exists.  We don’t have a perfect “if-then” relationship.

The Elevator Speech

A simple “rule of thumb” that might be helpful is to consider the classic elevator speech.  Can you communicate your business strategy in the few seconds a 3 story elevator ride might last?  If not, it might be argued that the strategy isn’t clear or distilled down to the core, critical components.

Here’s a simple format to consider as a foundation for creating that elevator speech:

Situation:  “Our market (or customer, etc.) is . . .a, b and c”

So What?:  “So we must do n, o, and p”

Actions:  “So we will execute the following key initiatives – x, y, z”

It’s personal preference, but I like no more than 3 topics in each part.  Basically, aligning each Situation item, to one key “So What?” to one primary Action.  Considering the definition of “Strategy” proposed in another post, this format helps maintain integration of the actions.

Is this reasonable?  Can it be so simple?  Why not at least try?  A business strategy formatted to communicate simply is more likely to be executed, more likely to be understood, more likely to achieve team alignment.  Ultimately, it’s probably more likely to be remembered.  And that’s finally what we want: a memorable and executable set of actions.

Can you give your elevator speech for your business strategy?  Take some time and see if you can make this simple format work then give your success story or struggles below.

 

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3 Responses to “How many pages does it take to make a good business strategy?”

  1. Ryan Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. I think a great business plan is one that’s answers the simple questions with simple language. It should help you get excited about where you’re going to be taking your business…not stressed that you don’t have all the answers.

    The ugly business plans are used by banks. Ugg.

    Should you have a business plan? Yes. But make sure you keep it as short and as simple as possible. And write it in a way that helps you take action.

    You don’t need to know all the answers. You just need to know what your Successful Outcome looks like and what the next action(s) are to get there. Have flexibility to change the “plan” on a regular basis.

    Great stuff Matt.

    Thanks

    Ryan

    Reply

    • Matt Says:

      Thanks for the comment, Ryan. Business strategies that are over-prescribing, long and complex get used the least. There is power in simplicity. Thanks for reading.

      Matt

      Reply

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