01 October 2013

What's Your Strategy IQ?

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”  

Michael E. Porter

Ever notice how at just the right time the right people providentially come into your life?

So it was in the 1990s, during a study on thinking strategically, that Michel Robert, a co-founder of Decision Processes International, became a valuable resource.

The genesis of affinity is found in his book, "Strategy Pure and Simple."

It was Mike Robert who underscored the benefits of making a more apparent distinction between thinking and planning.  He even put the word "critical" in front of thinking which is sometimes a problem for those who score high on "positivity."  When placed in the context of asking the right questions, critical thinking (purposeful, reflective judgment) is foundational to positive outcomes. 

Mike's teaching derives from the writings of Benjamin Tregoe and John Zimmerman (Top Management Strategy) with real-time illustrations from his consulting practice at DPI. 

Three ideas stand out:

-Strategy as a framework. What do leaders use to guide them in making decisions about the nature and direction of the company? What's needed is a framework or future look to guide the process. This is preferable to an open-end arrangement that's undisciplined and could lead to a momentary attraction.

-Driving force. Select from the major operational components of the business (product, customer service, technology, production, or distribution) one ingredient that can be a driving force, propelling the enterprise into the future. It needs to be something the business does well. If this were theatre think lead actor (profit) and supporting player (marketing).

-Concept of the business.  Most mission statements have little meaning. They tend to be constructed imitations lacking original thought. Statements often reflect the lowest common denominators, a commodity more than a distinct position of strength. The book stresses that in a few sentences, no more than a paragraph, everyone in the organization should be able to describe what the business is and how it plans to be successful in its chosen markets. 

Whatever gives your company a distinct and sustainable advantage over competitors needs to be identified, widely known, and applied consistently to decision-making.

"Positions can't just be established or defended. The company has to keep finding new and unexpected ways to create value," Mike Robert would say.

What's your IQ?

No, not your intelligence quotient although that's important. We're referring to the organization's "strategic quotient." If you want to assess your strategic position, share this brief survey from Mike's book with the leadership team to check for clarity or gaps in strategy and execution:

1. Do you have a well-articulated, clear statement of strategy and business concept?
     Yes [  ]   No [  ] 

2. Could you write a one- or two-sentence statement of that strategy/business concept?

     Yes [  ]   No [  ]

3. Do your key subordinates understand that strategy/business concept?

     Yes [  ]   No  [  ]   Somewhat  [  ]

4. Could each of your subordinates write a one- or two-sentence statement of that strategy/business concept without consulting you or each other?

     One person could  [  ]   Some could   [  ]   None could   [  ]

5. Do they use this statement as a guide for the choices they make in pursuing new products, markets, and customers?

     Use frequently  [  ]   Use sometimes  [  ]   Never use  [  ]

6. Is it used as a filter to choose or reject products, markets, and customers?

     Yes  [  ]   Sometimes  [  ]    No  [  ]

7. Have you ever sat down as a management team to try to obtain consensus as to the future direction of your firm?

     Yes  [  ]   No  [  ]

8. Was consensus obtained or are there still different visions of what the organization is trying to become?

     Total consensus  [  ]    Single vision

     Some consensus  [  ]   Single vision

     Little consensus   [  ]    Different visions
9. Is the organization moving in a clear direction?

     Yes  [  ]   Not sure  [  ]   No  [  ]

10. Do you have a separate strategic thinking process to determine what you want to become as opposed to how you get there?

     Yes  [  ]  No  [  ]

11.  In a brief paragraph, what is your strategic business concept? 


(C) Bredholt & Co.