I have recently embarked on a book called ‘The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World’ and I’m enthralled. As a corporate strategist for R. L. Polk, many of the ideas in this book repeat, clarify and introduce ideas of strategy that I never expected or thought I new. I will be posting on this book as I read but I have to give it an immediate cosign for all strategists, managers, and consultants who want to learn more about their craft and get better.Included in the beginning of the book is what proves to be an oversimplification of the main parts to strategy. Somewhere I heard, though, that the simplest ideas are the most brilliant. Those parts are positioning, process and people. If it sounds a little like marketing’s 4 P’s, there isn’t a coincedence there are quite a few similarities to marketing and overall business strategy. Strategy is sort of like marketing’s big brother – like Arnold and Willis from ‘Different Strokes.’
As the Greeks would say, “know thyself.” But you must also know your competitors. This sounds a lot like marketing’s points of parity and differentiation, but it goes much further. Within positioning, an understanding of the maturity, brand affinity, ability to make change and microeconomics of the situation must be taken into account.
One of the most important parts of positioning in strategy is also “game theory,” or if-then statements for all you math types. I like to think, if I did ‘x’, the market, competition and customers will do ‘y.’ Thinking of your position in this way can help you figure out the next move to make with surprising scientific clarity.
Also known (or despised) in the business world as reengineering, process eludes to the idea that if you designed and manufactured a product faster than your competitors did then you gained a competitive advantage. Reengineering is currently dismissed as fad – in the book as well as business – but process remains as a core competency in strategy.
Without good processes, how can one decide go-to-market strategy or cost of goods sold? These elements are essential in strategy. When deciding on new products/services, process has to be taken into account to make sure a good idea does not flop. Good ideas with bad processes are like that kid that was the best athlete in school but never made it pro because work ethic and vision were lacking in his approach to the sport. Don’t be the dude dunking on 13 year olds in the park talking about the old days. Nobody respects that guy.
The ever-nebulous “people.” Also known as human resources.
Digression: Human resources is such an odd term to me. It’s like breaking people and their talents down into different sized widgets. I know I don’t want to be thought of as a widget, but a complex being that can change and perform above and below my abilities at times. Humans as a resource doesn’t take the former into account. I think we should change the name of Human Resource departments to Human Performance. But I digress…
The people at BCG say that people are the single irreducible facet of a business. Inasmuch that the human element, not the company is what makes the difference. Leveraging the human asset to its fullest is what makes great companies great. So,the questions of how do we do this, and what do we have in our people are essential elements of strategy. Sometimes I have ideas that I may not think that my sales force can execute, so they get shelved until such time that we can actually make a run at selling said product with the people we have available.
Strategy is fun and exciting because it keeps businesses relevant in a world of ever-increasing competition. So, go out and be brilliant; you may think of the strategy that makes you millions.