Bob Schultek Author of The Gauntlet

Strategy execution is essential, but only possible when the strategy is realistic. And once you invest in execution, it’s difficult to turn away when it becomes clear that the strategy is not working. 

To avoid wasted time and energy, consider Roger Martin’s (HBR) approach to strategy development. Rather than focusing too heavily on SWOT or other analyses, or on broad, future-based projections, or direction changes, Roger suggests that answering the following five connected questions, which flow logically from the first to the last, offers an effective means to win at strategy development:

  1. What are your broad aspirations for your organization and the specific goals against which you can measure progress?
  2. Across the potential markets available to you, where will you choose to invest and not invest?
  3. In your targeted market(s), how will you choose to win against the competitors there?
  4. What capabilities/resources are necessary to build and sustain your winning value proposition?
  5. What management systems must function to cultivate and maintain these key capabilities?

The answers to these five questions must be consistent with one another and actually reinforce one another. For example, a strategy that relies on superior distribution cannot be successfully executed without a related plan to build the capabilities and management system to sustain it. 

To create the connectivity between your answers to these questions, Roger recommends an iterative process – think a bit about Aspirations & Goals, then consider Where to Invest and How to Win; then, return to Aspirations & Goals to check and modify, before shifting to Capabilities and Management Systems to assess what is realistic and attainable. Then, again reconsider the first question, and modify accordingly. 

Crafting a winning strategy in relatively small, distinct chunks and shaping the answers to the five questions through iteration will produce a strategy that can succeed, with less pain and wasted time.

What parts of this process are you already employing in strategy development?

How might this concept strengthen your strategy execution?