Spokane Regional Networking, Social Media, Professional and Business Development
Good, I have your attention now. Over the last few weeks I have been posting about strategy concepts. I feel like I have been missing my mark. These concepts have detailed various tools for developing strategy, but say little about the true nature of strategy. Unfortunately this is the prevailing approach in business schools as well. No offense to my strategy professors, but the study of strategic management is academic in its nature and largely fails in teaching how to think strategically. By studying all of these tools and strategic frameworks one can develop a strategic mindset, but I find it to be a very roundabout approach. I have not seen a better way to go about it, but will attempt to develop one here.
Business is War!
While I partially titled this post this way to grab your attention, I also did it to define the importance and essence of strategy in business. While we don’t use bullets or missiles in business, we do engage in combat with other businesses for a limited amount of profit. Like warfare you do not gain market share or new customers, nor do you open new markets by sitting back and playing defense. You must gather your strength and exert yourself. Why do you need to go on the offensive to win? The short answer is that just because you don’t doesn’t mean the other guy won’t. Winning can be defined in reasonably absolute terms. In war you win by obtaining complete control of a particular piece of territory. There is a caveat. If you don’t destroy the foe from which you seized the territory, they will in all likelihood attempt to wrest it back. So in order to seize a piece of territory one must bring the foe to his knees and force capitulation. In business you must do the same. If you share market with other businesses they possess valuable territory (market share) and pose a threat to you as they see value in your market share. To win, or simply even survive, you must ultimately seek to destroy your competition.
Now with all of that said, it is very important to know when, how, and where to go about engaging your competition. This is where the various tools I have discussed previously come into play. Define victory conditions (vision statement). Know the geography of a market (information and intelligence); no competent general would enter battle without an understanding of his enemy, their capabilities, the terrain over which the war is to be fought, or the capabilities of his own forces. No business should either. These factors will help define your strategy. I believe that it is very important to place the focus of strategy development on your own strengths; these are in your control. Knowing your own strengths then allows you to choose the time, place and method of attack ensuring the greatest potential for victory.
There is a concept in military strategy and tactics called the initiative. A similar, but not identical concept in business is the first mover advantage. The first mover advantage is effectively used by companies like Apple to introduce change to a market or industry which forces the competition into a trailing and therefore more vulnerable position. The initiative at its core is essentially forcing your opponent to fight on your own terms. An example would be a military with great strength in armored vehicles forcing its more lightly equipped enemy to engage it on a open plain where it expend its maximum advantage. Conversely a force of light infantry might attempt to force that heavily armored army into the confines of a city or mountains. At the end of the day initiative is about taking control of the conflict and imposing your terms of engagement on your opponent. It is typically easier to force this sort of engagement when you are on the offensive and attacking a defender.
This may not be a better way to understand strategy and to think more proactively about it, but it is someplace to start. As I develop the thought process more thoroughly I will continue to add more here. I will also continue to add some more tools in the Strategy Concepts line of posts. Please feel free to comment and help me to shore up or correct this approach.