Potential: Revealed

Strategic Thinking, Innovative Ideas, Growth Marketing, and Revealing of Potential

Practical Strategy

True to my intent, I have written somewhat eclectically about discovering potential, looking ahead, thinking critically and objectively and wanted to get back to a business-oriented mode for a few posts.

Many organizations (and individuals!) are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to deal with our current, unique and challenging circumstances. But they are also trying to plan for the future (with optimism that “this too shall pass” and wanting to be ready for the next set of opportunities and challenges). I applaud any form of optimism! And so, I have a practical tool for use in getting some strategic thinking and planning done, which seems especially useful in these times as an overdone, over-wrought approach will be overkill when “directionally correct” might be all that is needed until some of the uncertainties and issues of the current time pass. I would argue though that even in more certain times, the approach I’ll write about in this and subsequent posts is useful and gets most any organization beyond being stuck in the present and looking ahead with a critical and purposeful eye.

The approach I advocate is squarely focused on getting a specific vision and strategy down on paper — and will serve as a very powerful tool to also use in successive iterations (a critical component of the strategy process as a one-time vision and strategy exercise might not even be worth the effort).

What I also like about this approach is that it uses language and key words that were not “strategy double-speak” and won’t put off the executives and other participants who often tune out of a strategy exercise because of preconceived notions about strategy, consultants, etc. (i.e., “too complicated”, “too high level”, “not executable”).  

The approach also ensures completeness without being overly complex and strenuous as a management team exercise. I often say when about to embark on this process that I want the team to “work out”, not “wear out”, their thinking capacity.

I call it Practical Strategy because of the definition of the word “practical”: \ˈprak-ti-kəl\, adj., useful and no-nonsense.

There are two basic steps to the process, with the second working through and answering a series of questions. I’ll summarize the first step in this post, and then work through the second part and the questions in a couple of subsequent posts.  The first step is to articulate a long range vision for the business. This can sound too simple on the surface. A good vision is not just a statement that gets put onto posters, inside annual reports, or laminated on cards handed out to employees and customers. Getting it right is hard work but needn’t be a too-long effort. It must be clear, specific and define the place for the business to aspire reaching (but with no set time horizon). A test will be that a good vision statement can be decomposed and set the boundaries for and guide the answering of the subsequent questions in this exercise. If it fails this basic test, the vision is not practical and should be refined.

I’ll give an example. The practical vision for Domino’s Pizza: “Make and deliver a fresh, hot, high-quality pizza to the customer’s home within 30 minutes or less.” Several things:
– this makes clear what value is to be delivered – fresh, hot and high-quality. Any one of these may be sufficient, why choose all three? Knowing why make subsequent decisions about business model, operational strategies and so forth quite clear

– a key differentiator is articulated – 30 minutes or less (and in their advertising they backed this with a guarantee-or-free offer)

– a key operational characteristic is defined – to the customer’s home. If taken literally (which they did), this kept them focused on the home delivery model and away from building sit-down or walk-in or stores, and has clear direction for their location and logistics strategies. 

– even the omission of something can be useful — the vision only mentions pizza. No mention of other products or open-ended placeholders for other foods or items that could be thrown in. It is about pizza, plain and simple.

Not all businesses are as simple as Domino’s. Or is it that not all businesses go to trouble of defining their businesses in such clear and practical ways? I’m sure the answer is in the middle somewhere but I will argue it falls toward the latter.

As always I welcome your feedback and look for a post soon on the first of the questions that must be answered to complete the rest of the Practical Strategy process.

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7 Comments»

  marketingagent99 wrote @

Been reading your posts just haven’t commented lately. When are you going to post the questions? I need those! 🙂 In my work we find it difficult to get clarity and have common purpose. I’d like to know about how long this sort of process takes. Does practical also mean short? 99

  Randy wrote @

Time frame depends upon 1) how many people you have involved, generally more people = more time 2) how deep you want or need to go with analysis behind the scenes to get necessary facts to support conclusions and set and measure goals. But I’d say shorter is better and recommend using time boxing (e.g., just set a practical end date for when a cut of each step in the process will be done) and judge from the output ready at that deadline whether you have gotten it “good enough” to go and start the iterative process of putting it into place, measuring progress, refining, measuring, etc. I’ll try to touch on this subject in subsequent posts. Good question!

R

  tommck wrote @

Good and useful post. Will be eager to see the rest in the series. A friend recommended this book on Amazon.com with tools for do-it-yourself McKinsey strategy. Not sure if you’ve seen it or if it would break your “practical” rules. TP

  Randy wrote @

I never read the “McKinsey Way”. I think there is much to be learned from understanding the philosophy and approaches they use though (e.g., the “MECE” dictum). Part of what I think makes strategy work “practical” is having a mindset or framework that is objective and tends to ensure factual analysis and discussion. Having this can help you and a team to be efficient. R

[…] Following on from the previous post, and the second in this series on developing a “practical strategy”, there are five basic questions that can be used as a framework for building and testing the […]

  Where do we want to go? « Potential: Revealed Weblog wrote @

[…] latent value, marketing, Practical, Strategy This is the third in a series on developing a “practical strategy”.  So far we’ve looked at two of the five basic questions that can be used as a framework […]

[…] on from the previous post, and the second in this series on developing a “practical strategy”, there are five […]


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