Maximize Your Strategy Design: 5 Concepts You Can’t Afford to Confuse

Cross-functional & collaborative Strategy Design in action. Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

Start off on the right foot with these clear definitions

People refer to many things as “strategy,” and I’ve found it’s essential to be clear and consistent with your definitions.

The Five Definitions

Here are five definitions I’ve evolved and tested over time, and found helpful to baseline with your teams:
1. Strategy — a client-centric set of integrated choices
2. Goal — an internal-centric thing aimed at or strived for
3. Mission Statement — Why the organization exists, its reason for being
4. Vision — a word picture of how the world will be different in the future once the organization has accomplished its Mission.
5. Plan — an internal-centric, detailed proposal for doing or achieving something

You’ll regularly hear even experienced business people confuse these five.

“Our strategy is to be the world’s leading supplier of high-end, compostable coffee filters where we reduce the amount of coffee waste and turn it into green lawns.”

(Nope, that’s a Mission Statement.)

“Our strategy is to create a world where coffee grounds no longer get thrown into garbage heaps, but instead nourish pollinator gardens across every lawn in every town across America.”

(Still not a strategy. That’s a Vision, that inspiring word picture of how the future will look once we’ve achieved our Mission.)

“Our strategy is to increase growth by 25% in five years.”

(Nope. That’s a Goal.)

Never confuse a Goal with a Strategy.

Also not clear in the above example who exactly the client persona is, nor why they’re suddenly supposed to drop their current vendor of choice and join this other company in droves.

One Easy Way to Design Strategy

One simple & accessible approach to designing Strategy is by answering the 5 Questions of the Strategy Choice Cascade:

1. What’s our Winning Aspiration? (Mission and Vision can be part of this)
2. Where to Play? (Geography, Customer, Channel)
3. How to Win? (How will we differentiate?)
4. What Must-Have Capabilities will we need to effectively deliver against our Where to Play and How to Win choices?
5. What Enabling Management Systems need to be put in place to measure, monitor, and continuously improve our Strategy and our Must-Have Capabilities?

All that will fit on a single sheet of paper.



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