Business & Brand Strategy is in THE MIX
What passes for “Strategy” in many companies really isn’t any kind of strategy at all.
And that’s both a shame and a weakness, since thinking and acting strategically is likely to be about the most cost-effective, value-added activity that any senior manager can ever do.
Executives and Founders will always tell you about some kind of company Vision or Mission – or stuff like “maintaining excellence” or “being a leading player”. But that’s a bit like a football manager who says “to win the next match, we intend to score some goals”.
That doesn’t mean to say that having a Mission or Vision is wrong, but they’re the desired outcomes. So it’s a mistake to confuse them for the strategies on which they need to be based.
Asking the right questions
It’s interesting to start a consulting process by asking a range of stakeholders – “so what does this business really do?”
The usual reaction to that suggests that the questioner is dumb or hasn’t done any kind of research. But ask this question of individuals at most companies and you can be pretty sure to get many different answers, once you get passed any slogan or “official” response.
And as so many executives feel pressured to spend so much of their day with their heads up their operational effectiveness issues (!), it’s no wonder that it’s often very difficult for them to think aside from the everyday problems and to be objective.
A much better question to ask stakeholders – whether from large corporate companies or even from a new, emerging business – is:-
“Given our resources and capabilities, what business or businesses could and should we be in?”
Strategy before Sexiness
Immediately upon taking over the running of a very troubled IBM in 1993, Lou Gerstner became famous for saying, “The last thing IBM needs right now is a Vision.”
Gerstner then strategized what we call THE MIX to redefine IBM’s business territory and market positioning, basically making a strategic leap from best products to best IT corporate solutions.
Only once he’d started implementing that strategy did a new, meaningful, and sexy Vision statement fit perfectly: “To lead big companies into a brave new networked world….”.
If a company fails to instill an internal and external culture of reviewing THE MIX at regular intervals; reconsidering its processes and market positioning; redirecting its resources to meet new challenges; re-energizing its people with new goals and the right brand story to tell; it may find out too late that its ladder of success is now leaning up against the wrong wall.
And since we’re going to spend our entire future living in tomorrow—why not take the time to make better strategic, sustainable plans for that today?