HBR – Freek Vermeulen – Many Strategies Fail Because They’re Not Actually Strategies

“new strategies” are often not strategies at all. A real strategy involves a clear set of choices that define what the firm is going to do and what it’s not going to do.

Many so-called strategies are in fact goals. “We want to be the number one or number two in all the markets in which we operate” is one of those. It does not tell you what you are going to do; all it does is tell you what you hope the outcome will be. But you’ll still need a strategy to achieve it.

click here for the full HBR article by Freek Vermeulen

The iconic British toy company Hornby Railways — maker of model railways and Scalextric slot car racing tracks — was facing bankruptcy. Under the new CEO, Frank Martin, the company decided to change course and focus on collectors and hobbyists instead. As a new strategy, Martin aimed (1) to make perfect scale models (rather than toys); (2) for adult collectors (rather than for children); (3) that appealed to a sense of nostalgia (because it reminded adults of their childhoods). The switch became a runaway success, increasing Hornby’s share price from £35 to £250 over just five years.

Communicate your logic. We always focus on what the choices are, you have to spend at least as much time on explaining the logic behind the choices.

Stanford professor Robert Burgelman said, “Successful firms are characterized by maintaining bottom-up internal experimentation and selection processes while simultaneously maintaining top-driven strategic intent.”

Let selection happen organically. Be brave enough to resist making these bottom-up choices, but design a system that does it for you.

Make change your default. We often resist change unless it is crystal clear that the alternative is substantially better. For a successful strategy implementation process, however, it is useful to put the default the other way around: Change it unless it is crystal clear that the old way is substantially better. Execution involves change. Embrace it.

click here for the full HBR article by Freek Vermeulen