Tag Archives: The Strategy Series

The Strategy Series is about all the blogs which are related to Strategy.

How Deliberate Strategy can be your working strategy

How Deliberate Strategy Can Be the Working Strategy!

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The previous two Veracles argued about the two strategies – Nope and Hope – of the three types mentioned in “Does your business have a working strategy”. In this Veracle, we talk about the third type, that actually focuses on developing a working strategy. Here we discuss “How deliberate strategy can be the working strategy for your business.”

Deliberate Strategy is employed in an organization when business-executives:

  • are growth-oriented and are looking for new areas of growth, and
  • have risk propensity to commit resources to new approach

What is Deliberate Strategy?

In this approach, businesses invest resources to develop a bespoke strategy tailored specifically to their business context.

In other words, businesses take deliberate steps within the context of their business situation to increase the likelihood of achieving long-term goals.

In short, the business outcome is not left to chance. Every aspect of operating and growing the business is deliberately and meticulously planned.

It is like a journey one undertakes to reach a destination.

A journey constitutes a starting point, a destination to reach, the route that takes from the starting point to the destination, and the resources required to undertake and complete the journey under any eventuality.

Likewise, developing deliberate strategy requires the following actions to be taken:

  1. Understand the current business context.
  2. Define business goals to be achieved.
  3. Develop plan to achieve the business goals from the current business situation.
  4. Commit resources to achieve the business goals while adapting to any changes.

Let us look at the four steps in more detail:

1. Understand the current business context.

The business-executives developing a deliberate strategy needs to build a full grasp of the current business context with respect to the business environment.

This involves obtaining customer intelligence, acknowledging operational capabilities, understanding product portfolio, acquiring competitor insights, and baselining financial metrics. This step will help you get a sense of your core ideology, financial and operational resources, organization strengths, weaknesses, and problem areas.

Why is understanding the business context important?

The business context provides a frame of reference to define appropriate business goals. Moreover, the business context serves as the baseline to measure and compare the progress against.

2. Define business goals to be achieved.

Organizational purpose and vision are the guiding-light for business-executives defining business goals. It is necessary that business goals are clearly defined so that one can communicate them unambiguously to all layers of the organization.

A well-defined business goal adheres to the QTR [read: Quarter] principle:

  • Quantitative – it is measurable
  • Timebound – it has a definite time frame within which to achieve it
  • Reasonable – it is realistic, even if difficult, to achieve in the given time frame

Here are some examples of some meaningful business goals (set by real-life firms):

  • Grow annual revenues to $865 million at a CAGR of 20% within three years
  • Conquer 5% more market share in our target market by the end of the year
  • Reduce operational costs to realize 15% profitability YoY within two years

A QTR-based business goal establishes the destination for a business to reach within a stipulated time.

3. Identify the route to reach the business objectives.

Once the business goal is defined, the CEO and the top management need to put together a route to that end. A customer-centric plan acts as the route.

This step is crucial to developing a deliberate strategy. In fact, this is where a Deliberate strategy differs from a Hope strategy (or any other best practices strategy).

A Hope strategy is forward-designed and forward-implemented.

Whereas, a Deliberate strategy is backward-designed but forward-implemented.

Let me explain.

A Hope strategy involves employing strategies and best practices that have worked for other businesses. Naturally, these strategies are picked up by an organization, customized for their use, and implemented to reach the business goals. Thus, it follows a forward path.

On the contrary, a Deliberate strategy starts from the end-point, i.e. the business goals. It involves figuring out what is required to reach that state, and then coming backwards by designing a slew of bespoke actions to reach that state. This is how it is backward-designed.

This is the key difference between the two.

4. Commit resources to achieve the business goals while adapting to any changes.

Once the business goal is defined and the business strategy is rolled-out, the organization commits to the implementation journey along the strategic route.

A business strategy for an organization exists within the context of its current business situation. The business situation is part of the larger business environment, which includes the market (which buys) and the industry (which sells) among other stakeholders, like suppliers, regulators, government and technology.

And the business environment is constantly changing.

Buyers (or customers), sellers (or competitors) and suppliers keep entering and leaving the business environment, like new passengers en route your journey.

Like you, your competitors are also persistently working on their own strategies to grow and capture market share.

Governments keep looking for newer ways to tax businesses, and regulators are bringing new regulations to safeguard fair competition.

Among all this, technology disrupts the way of doing business.

To reiterate the point, the business environment is continually changing.

Therefore, it is imperative to keep looking for any changes that risk execution of your bespoke strategy. The business needs to keep collecting data points and reviewing its strategy at regular intervals to ensure that the journey is on the right track.

These are the actions that make for a working strategy.

How Veravizion implements Deliberate Strategy?

At Veravizion, we have developed our own framework that we call contextual problem solving with deliberate strategy. This framework facilitates development of deliberate strategy using a Context-Drivers-Solution-Impact cycle. This framework applies to any business across industries.

There are many companies that have employed Deliberate Strategies in the past to grow predictably. Some examples (from across the industries) are 3M, Amazon, Apple, Boeing, Google, Nike, Nordstrom, Procter & Gamble, among many others.

While reading the names of these well-known companies as examples of businesses succeeding with deliberate strategy, it is easy to think that deliberate strategy works only for the big ones.

This is a classic logical fallacy.

In reality, most of these companies were virtually a nobody before they implemented deliberate strategies.

Deliberate Strategy

3M were miners. Their earlier venture, started in 1902, to mine corundum failed. 3M tried their hands at other things like making sandpaper. They failed less, yet did not succeed like success.

Later, they chose to embrace “innovation and collaboration” as their Deliberate strategy.Today, 3M is known as world’s most innovative company.

More Examples…

The following example has been taken from “Built to Last”, the bestselling book by Jim Collin and Jerry Porras.

Boeing, until 1952, had been building aircrafts primarily for the military, and had virtually no presence in the commercial aircraft market. Boeing relied heavily on orders from their only major client – the U.S. Air Force – to survive. Nobody knew Boeing. Back then, their competitors Douglas Aircraft dominated and ruled the commercial market with their propeller-driven planes. Boeing wanted to enter the commercial market with a big, fast, advanced, and better-performing aircraft.

If Boeing had followed Nope strategy, we would never have known of them.

If Boeing had followed Hope strategy, they would have probably leveraged the competitor strategies of the time, and would have built a better propeller plane at best.

Instead, Boeing embraced a Deliberate Strategy.

Taking inspiration from their purpose and vision – to be on the leading edge of aeronautics pioneering aviation – Boeing announced their goal to make a jet plane for the commercial market. No other aircraft company had proved that there was a commercial market for jet aircraft. Moreover, such a project was going to cost them about three times their average annual after-tax profit – roughly a quarter of their entire corporate net worth – to develop a prototype for the jet. But Boeing committed to it. The strategy resulted in such fine planes as 707, 727, 737, 747, and 777. Douglas aircraft could never quite catch-up to Boeing. Douglas struggled to survive by merging with McDonnell aircraft in 1967. Eventually, Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas in 1997.

Apple is a more recent example of a business that became successful by devising and implementing Deliberate Strategy. Apple believes in “breaking the status-quo”.

The strategy helped them differentiate in the crowded smartphone market and created an enviable position for them. Moreover, Apple was the most valuable brands in the world for eight straight years.

To sum it up with key insights…

Deliberate Strategy helps an organization achieve their business objectives in a decisive and predictable manner.

The predictability comes only by acting deliberately.

The whole process is highly intentional, methodical, and purposeful.

And Deliberate Strategy is universal. The above framework would still work if you replace organization by an individual or an institution.

There are many examples of successful implementation of deliberate strategy in all spheres of life.

Deliberate strategy is the difference between many successes and failures.

An organization’s strategy is its source of sustainable competitive advantage. Should one squander it away by following someone else’s strategy? What do you think?

You can also subscribe to our blog – Veracles – to receive interesting articles and insights in email. We would love to read your perspectives and comments on that.

Do follow Veravizion on LinkedInTwitter or Facebook to receive easy updates.

Cover photo credit: Brad Wetzler

Other photos: 3M.com, Boeing.com, Apple.com

Can Hope be a Real Business Strategy?

Can Hope be a Real Business Strategy?

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The last Veracle was third of the six on business strategy. It tried to answer whether a business can still win with no strategy. While there are businesses that do not employ any strategy, one can witness more businesses following hope as a strategy. So, the perplexing question here is – Can HOPE be a real business strategy?

What is a hope strategy?

Hope strategy is one where businesses do a lot of the same activities with the hope that it will help them grow.

Hope strategy is most frequently observed in businesses where:

  • business executives are keen for the positive growth outcome,
  • but are not inclined to commit resources required for it.

Now, this seems counter-intuitive.

When a business executive is keen to grow a business, they would naturally want to invest resources to grow, right?! Not quite.

Here, they face two options to grow:

  1. Invest resources to develop a bespoke strategy tailored to their business context and implement it meticulously.
  2. Employ strategies and best practices implemented before them by similar businesses in their industry.

The first option – develop a bespoke strategy – is about developing Deliberate Strategy for your business. Although it isn’t, this option may seem costlier, at least in the short term, as it involves investing resources in designing a new strategy from scratch. We will discuss this in the next Veracle.

The second option, that involves employing strategies and best practices of similar businesses, appears to provide a proven path to progress in the short term.

Interestingly, many businesses tend to take the second option out of the belief that the strategies that have worked for other businesses will work for theirs too. It is far too common to hear, “it has worked for them, why won’t it work for us?”

This belief is the basis for the hope strategy.

The problem is that the second option does not sound wrong.

Let us recall “the ship’s voyage” metaphor (cited in the previous Veracle) where we had likened a business to a ship sailing on a voyage to its destination.

The second option is akin to setting the course of a ship by looking at the lights of passing ships. In shiplore, this is a terrible blunder.

Likewise, setting the strategic direction of a business by looking at the strategies employed by similar businesses is a huge mistake.

That is why, the second option is deceptive.

What may have worked for other businesses, may not work for yours. This is because the business contexts are very different.

This is the key insight.

Businesses following a hope strategy exhibit three characteristics:

  • Lack of clarity about self-identity
  • Frequent change in the strategic direction
  • Business running in a perpetual reactive fire-fighting mode

When a business has not developed a bespoke strategy of their own, they tend to adopt the strategies and best practices from the leading companies in their industry. There is stress on doing a lot of those things and doing them right. There are too many initiatives and employees are working on too many pursuits simultaneously.

This approach causes them to lose their core identify over time.

While the business itself might be operating successfully, pursuing too many things causes frequent change in direction.

Such a business might continue operating until the time it is able to innovate and satiate customer demands. However, the lack of a strategic direction coupled with any external challenges triggers the inevitable declining spiral.

Sony and Yahoo, are two of the many examples of businesses following hope strategy and declining.

Sony, with its miniaturization strategy, was at the top of the music industry before the digital era began. Digitalization happened in early 2000s and there was a new trend of (illegally) downloading music online. Despite having the technology to launch a product for digital music, Sony did not invest in it. Sony only hoped that the trend would go away, eventually letting their music products business getting doomed.

Yahoo! is another case of how a pioneering business floundered in just hoping that some strategy would emerge.

Yahoo! started in 1994 as a one-stop shop web portal. It brought together news and other online services helping users navigate the internet. So, in a way, it was a gateway to the internet for most users of the time.

Exhibit 1 shows Yahoo homepage of 1994 when it was launched.

Can Hope be a Real Business Strategy?

During late 1990s (and early 2000s), it was an undisputed leader of the web with its email, online search and news. The company not only survived the dot com crash of 2000, its sales climbed multi-fold between 2001 and 2008 (as shown by the share price rise in Exhibit 2).

Can Hope be a Real Business Strategy?

In early 2008, Microsoft intended to acquire Yahoo for $44.6 billion, an offer Yahoo formally rejected citing shareholder’s interest. Eventually, Verizon acquired Yahoo, once worth almost $125 billion, for $4.8 billion, underscoring the company’s fall.

So, what went wrong? How does a good company like Yahoo fail so miserably?

Numerous reasons have been put forth to explain Yahoo’s failure. Here are some of the prominent ones:

  • Yahoo was jack of all trades, master of none. Yahoo tried to do many things – Yahoo Search, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Messenger, Yahoo News, and Yahoo Sports among others – but didn’t focus on being best in one.
  • Yahoo remained the same portal it was a decade ago and did not innovate.
  • Yahoo was late to mobile, according to a senior editor at Harvard business review
  • Yahoo did not focus on hiring the right talent; Yahoo apparently short-changed engineering, and media people were viewed more important, according to an EECS professor at Michigan.
  • Yahoo failed as Marissa Mayer could not perform the turnaround.

All these reasons seem right. And, it is easy to blame Marissa Mayer, who was at the helm from 2012 to 2017, for the ultimate decline.

But the real reason goes much deeper, and much earlier, than that.

A close observation of the above five points reveal that these are symptoms of one common underlying cause: While doing so many things, Yahoo appears to have kept praying that something will work, some strategy will emerge, and they will survive.

The above conclusion may sound too simplistic, almost frivolous.

However, lack of a clear explicit strategy explains all the above symptoms.

Issue with Self-Identity

Yahoo started as a web portal and generated most of its revenue from selling advertising on the different service platforms it created. The key Yahoo services became so popular at one time that they started treating themselves as a media company, rather than a technology company.

There was a lack of clarity about self-identity.

So, the focus of hiring and talent retention philosophy kept shifting from engineering to media. As a result, Yahoo failed to innovate and remained the same portal even after a decade. Meanwhile, Google and Facebook hired top engineers (doing core programming) and leapfrogged Yahoo with better sleeker products. Gmail beat Yahoo Mail, Google Search outperformed Yahoo Search, and WhatsApp surpassed Yahoo Messenger impacting Yahoo sales.

As a company strategy, Yahoo started taking mobile seriously only after 2012, whereas other competing businesses already had an operational mobile strategy by then. Google’s Eric Schmidt mentioned mobile as one of their strategic areas in as early as 2006.

What about Strategic Direction?

The lack of strategic direction is evident considering Yahoo saw 8 CEOs in 20 years, and 6 CEOs within just 4 years. Founder and CEO Jerry Yang stepped down in December 2008 citing conflict of opinion in terms of strategic direction. His successor, Carol Bartz, openly admitted that she also grappled with the question of what Yahoo is, when she took over in 2009.

The acutest confirmation of lack of explicit strategy came during Marissa Mayer tenure when she spent over $2 billion binge acquiring 53 mobile-based companies, none of them really successful. Check out Exhibit-3 to see if you can identify some of them.

Can Hope be a Real Business Strategy?

In summary, it can be said that Yahoo! grappled with a clear explicit strategy for a very long time. Over the years, the CEOs just pursued what seemed right at the time hoping that some strategy would emerge. In the end, the hope strategy did them in.

Having said thus, it is appropriate to add here that it is very convenient to retrospectively dissect businesses and tell what went wrong. Wouldn’t it be more useful (for you and your business) if you knew the right way to define strategy, and more importantly, be able to tell whether it is going well? The next two Veracles attempt to do just that.

You can also subscribe to our blog – Veracles – to receive interesting articles and insights in email. We would love to read your perspectives and comments on that.

Do follow Veravizion on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to receive easy updates.

Cover photo credit: hbu.edu

Can a business still win with a Nope Strategy

Can a business still win with a Nope Strategy?

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The Nope Strategy is first of the three types discussed in the previous Veracle titled “Does your business have a working strategy”. It raises a pertinent question, “Can a business still win with a Nope Strategy?”

To give you a quick recap, we read that a business suffers with Nope Strategy when its business-executives:

  • do not want to lose the status quo, so they just want to protect their turf rather than look for new areas of predictable growth, and
  • do not commit any resources for new growth strategy

What happens at a business that has no growth strategy?

Three things ensue –

When a business has no clear strategy, it does not have a specific direction to pursue nor a plan to communicate to its employees.

In such a scenario, the employees do not feel connected by any common long-term objective (even if there is one). Employees tend to work in a silo and perform their tasks on a tactical day-to-day level.

Gradually, the organisation loses track of what customers want. As the business lacks any formal strategy, it is not able to cope when there is an external change (in the micro- or macro-economic environment) like change in customer buying preferences or a change in technology.

When that happens at a company having Nope Strategy, the change triggers the downfall and eventual close-down of the business.

Let me explain this situation with “the ship’s voyage” metaphor.

When a ship sets sail on a voyage, its port of destination is known. And, the captain must work out and navigate the right route to reach the port of destination.

Similarly, a business operates with an aim to achieve certain objective. And, the business executives must design and implement the right strategy to achieve the objective.

A ship must keep sailing along the planned route to reach its port of destination. A ship without a planned route slowly strays eventually losing steam, stalls, and sinks.

Likewise, a business must keep operating with the right strategy to achieve its objectives. A business without a strategy eventually runs out of resources, falters, and fails.

Unfortunately, there are many examples of once brilliant businesses failing and going bankrupt because of having no credible strategy.

that’s cute – but don’t tell anyone about it.

Kodak was predominantly a film-based business. Kodak engineer invented the first digital camera. Nonetheless, the management did not see the need for any growth strategy nor did they invest any resources in it. They were insistent on protecting their film-based business. Even when customers started dumping film for digital cameras, Kodak refused to have any strategy to tackle the change, and eventually went bankrupt in 2012.

Similarly, Hitachi, and Macy’s had no credible digital strategy, so when the digital revolution happened, these once immensely popular brands lost their way.

Sears was a huge success running its chain of general departmental stores. However, when Walmart and Kmart made the large retail stores popular, Sears had no strategy to adapt to the change, and faltered.

How Nokia killed Nokia?

Let us take a deeper look into an example of a well-known business that hardly had a strategy when faced with a market change.

In October 1998, Nokia became the best-selling mobile phone brand on the planet. As shown in Exhibit 1, Nokia’s operating profits steadily rose (along with its share price) from 1995 to 2000. During the early years of the millennium, early smartphones started crowding the mobile market, which somewhat hit the Nokia share price. Nevertheless, the share price kept rising with the popularity of Symbian-OS.

Until 2007, Nokia’s Symbian-OS was the undisputed market leader with 60% smartphone market share (see Exhibit 2).

What happened after that is interesting!

On June 29th, 2007, Apple launched iPhone, and in mid-2008, Google partnered with other smartphone manufacturers to capture the smartphones market via Android-OS.

This was the start of the steady decline for Nokia smartphones.

As shown in Exhibit-3, Android (in rising blue line) was grabbing the smartphones market so far dominated by Nokia (in declining yellow line). Over the next few years, Nokia witnessed one of the most painful declines in business history. While this was happening, Nokia hardly had any strategy to stem the fall (even considering the launch of Nokia N97, dubbed the iPhone killer).

Nokia just appears to be at a loss about its strategy.

The downfall and eventual demise of Nokia’s smartphone business (in 2013) lies in the fact that they did not have any strategy to counter the onslaught of newer smartphones.

This observation is echoed by Dr. Yves Doz, INSEAD Emeritus Professor of Strategic Management, in his book Ringtone: Exploring the Rise and Fall of Nokia in Mobile Phones. The reasons mentioned in the book allude to an absence of a unified growth strategy and deterioration of strategic thinking within Nokia management.

According to Dr. Doz, Nokia was in strategic stasis that was visible in symptoms such as dysfunctional organisational structure, growing bureaucracy, and management infighting.

This implies that a business cannot survive for long without a strategy.

Does this mean, then, that a business is likely to do well, as long as it is able to “keep sailing the ship in some direction?”. This will be discussed in the next Veracle on “Hope Strategy”.

You can also subscribe to our blog – Veracles – to receive interesting articles and insights in email. We would love to read your perspectives and comments on that.

Do follow Veravizion on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to receive easy updates.

Cover photo credit: tracy morgan on Unsplash

Does your business have a working strategy

Does Your Business Have a Working Strategy?

Veravizion 2 comments

The previous Veracle discussed whether strategy is really indispensable for businesses. It ends with a few contemplative questions for businesspeople.

One of the questions relates to the types of strategies adopted by businesses. No, it does not refer to the cost-based, differentiation-based stuff.

It refers to types of strategies at a more fundamental, and practical, level.

The question asks whether your business has a working strategy.

What is a working strategy?

We know that a strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve long-term goals.

A working strategy is a plan of action that incorporates the components essential to achieve the goals.

Before we try to discuss more about what makes a working strategy, let us first understand the strategies businesses typically employ.

A close observation of businesses, including e-commerce companies, reveal interesting insights about the strategies they use to operate and grow.

Such strategies classify into three types.

  1. Nope Strategy
  2. Hope Strategy
  3. Deliberate Strategy

The names given to these strategies might sound ludicrous, but the underlying phenomena are visible all around us.

The first two approaches in the list above are examples of what not to do (and yet what many businesses in reality do!).

The third approach focuses on developing a working strategy. This is the strategy successful businesses implement.

The three types of strategies are fundamentally different based on attitudes of executives running the businesses. The difference comes from two factors: One, “the need for predictability of positive outcome”, and two, “the risk propensity to commit resources to grow”.

The need for predictability of positive outcome means whether the executives are keen to consciously make the growth happen, rather than leaving it to uncertainty in the face of constantly changing business environment.

In simple words, executives’ need for predictability of positive outcome is high when they are growth-oriented and cannot tolerate uncertainty for long. And executives’ need for predictability of positive outcome is low when they are cost-saving oriented and are afraid to lose what they currently have.

Kodak is an example where the top management was cost-saving oriented; they were reluctant to look beyond film as an area for future growth.

The risk propensity to commit resources to grow means willingness of the business-executive to expend resources – energy, money, and efforts – to consciously make the growth happen.

Xerox and Sony help us explain this phenomenon.

Xerox was actually the first company to invent the PC and yet did not commit resources to its advancement thereby losing in the marketplace to Apple. Smith and Alexander even wrote a book about Xerox called: “Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, then Ignored, the First Personal Computer.”

On similar lines, Sony actually had the technology to launch a product even better than the iPod. But the executives were too afraid to commit resources to test out something new, eventually losing to – guess who? – Apple.

So, how do these two factors influence Nope, Hope, and Deliberate Strategies?

Nope strategy” is one where business-executives have an operational business but have no real working strategy to grow the business. The business-executives are oriented towards protecting what they already have, rather than creating new areas of strategic growth.

Nokia and Kodak are two prominent examples of companies failing to Nope Strategy.

Nokia example is discussed at length in the next Veracle.

In “Hope strategy” approach, business-executives are keen for the positive growth outcome but are not inclined to commit resources required for it. The executives operate the business by doing a lot of the same things. The business has some inexplicit approach that is rooted in the belief that if a business follows the industry best practices and adopts the prevalent marketing trends, it should grow.

On probing them, one hears an implicit hope that a working strategy will somehow emerge from the many best practices followed.

Hope strategy is a bit tricky because it does not sound wrong. Here, the business outcome is unpredictable because it varies based on many environmental factors.

Deliberate strategy, on the other hand, is interesting. In this approach, an organization devises a plan of action that includes the components to make it work in the context of its environment. It includes defining a specific business objective that is both measurable and achievable. Thereafter, the business develops a deliberate plan that serves as a working strategy to achieve that business objective.

Apple’s growth of the last decade is an evidence of how deliberate strategy succeeds. Amazon is another example of a firm growing in this manner.

At Veravizion, we believe in employing a deliberate strategy to help our clients define and achieve their business objectives. Businesses have too many resources at stake to not employ a strategy that truly works.

Circling back to working strategy…

A working strategy, then, is one which assists an organization achieve their business objectives in a predictable manner.

Predictability is key here!

That is why deliberate strategy is important!

It allows an organization to drive their business objectives in a predictable manner.

In the next three Veracles, we will dig deeper to understand the attributes of each type of the strategies, with an example, to find out the strategy that works.

You can also subscribe to our blog – Veracles – to receive interesting articles and insights in email. We would love to read your perspectives and comments on that.

Do follow Veravizion on LinkedInTwitter or Facebook to receive easy updates.

Cover photo credit: photo by ricardo frantz on Unsplash

Is business strategy really indispensable?

Is business strategy really indispensable?

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Why do I need a business strategy?

Recently, this question was asked of me by the chief executive of a retail business that sells moderately well. To answer this question, let us first understand what strategy is!

In simple words, strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve long-term goals.

Strategy is applied in many different contexts. Military, sports, and business are some areas where strategy is necessary to win.

In military, strategy is essential to win a war. It allows armed forces to plan military operations – offensive and defensive – in order to gain battlefield advantage over enemies, and achieve goals of national (and global) security.

In sports, strategy is essential to win a game. It allows sportspersons to devise a game-plan in order to gain on-field advantage over rival teams, and win a match.

In business, strategy is essential to be profitable and grow over the long term. It allows organizations to develop business models and design operational processes in order to gain competitive advantage, and achieve goals of financial security.

Coming back to the question then, is strategy really indispensable?

For a moment, let us hypothesize about situations when strategy may not be considered important.

What if you are the general of an army having limitless troops and tanks? What if you are the coach of a sports team having boundless talent and practice hours? What if you are the CEO of a business having unlimited resources?

These situations might tempt us into thinking that one can easily trump the opponent without needing a strategy, if one has unlimited resources.

In reality, organizations may have resources in huge numbers, but they are always finite in quantity.

Military organizations have finite number of soldiers, shooting weapons, and shells.

Sports teams have finite number of players, paraphernalia, and practice periods.

Business firms have finite number of competencies, capacities, and capital.

When you have something in limited amount, what do you do? You find ways and mechanisms to use it judiciously such that your objective is achieved before expending the resources entirely.

Strategy is that mechanism!

Strategy is important because resources are always finite!

There is an interesting way to look at it.

The right strategy assists you in allocating your finite resources in such a way that you can build competitive advantage against your rivals of any size, and can still win.

There is a gem of an insight in that last sentence in case you missed it.

Strategy is the concept that helps you use your resources wisely and effectively. It allows you to prudently allocate your resources where they can deliver maximum possible returns.

Some Examples

There are numerous examples in military, sports, and business where a smaller team has implemented the right strategy to beat a disproportionately larger opponent.

History books are replete with instances of battles where a very small army has defeated a large one by employing strategic manoeuvres. The battle of Longewala, the battle at Rezang La, Napolean’s 1812 invasion of Russia, and the 1775 battle of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts are few such examples.

Sports archives are awash with games won by employing a tangible strategy; such games were called the biggest upsets of the time as strategy was a late entrant in the world of sports as compared to some of the other fields. Here are three examples:

In the final of 1950 world cup football, Uruguay beat Brazil by keeping the game simple, focused, and warlike. Because Brazil were the hot favourites to win the game, Uruguay team was under no pressure and their captain asked the team to play a no-holds-barred natural attacking game, which they did.

In the final of 1983 ICC world cup, the underdogs India beat consecutive three-time finalists (and two-time champions) West Indies by playing to the team’s strength of disciplined bowling.

One of the best examples of strategy winning a sports match is the “Miracle on Ice” game during the men’s ice hockey tournament at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. In this medal-round game, the United States team consisting exclusively of amateur players (but following military-style discipline) beat the four-time defending gold medallists Soviet Union that consisted primarily of professional players.

Examples from Business World

Business world is full-of case studies of businesses devising deliberate strategies, developing sustainable competitive advantage and capturing significant market share on their road to business growth. Here are two examples of businesses winning on strategy:

Blockbuster was founded in 1985 as a video (VHS) rental company. Within 15 years, it had 6,500 video rental stores around the US and revenues upwards of $5 billion. Netflix began operations in 1999 and led its strategy based on people’s video watching preferences. Netflix devised a highly customer-centric strategy that included subscription-based charges and no late fees, among other things. Customers could watch a video for as long as they wanted or return it and get a new one. By end of 2010, blockbuster was bankrupt while Netflix, on the back of its deliberate customer-centric strategy, is worth more than $150 billion today.

In the late 1980s, the sales of carbonated soft drinks were at a high. It would be foolish to introduce yet another drink in the fiercely competitive market. Yet, Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz partnered with a Thai businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya to introduce a new drink named Red Bull. Predictably, sales were (s)low during the initial years. That’s when the co-founder defined a strategy sharply focused on a chosen market segment and Red Bull was positioned as an energy drink for students and adventure enthusiasts. The strategy would eventually help the business increase annual sales to 6.79 billion cans in 2018 making Mateschitz the 31st richest person in the world.

These and many such examples signify that strategy is extremely important because organizations are invariably resource-constrained.

So what?

On this note, some meaningful follow-up questions to ask would be: Is any strategy good enough? Does your business have a working strategy? Are you able to explain it clearly?

You can also subscribe to our blog – Veracles – to receive interesting articles and insights in email. We would love to read your perspectives and comments on that.

Do follow Veravizion on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, to receive easy updates.

Cover photo credit: photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

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