My post on Product>Strategy>Business Model got a lot of comments and other reactions out there on the social web and from that I realized that many confuse strategy and tactics. And so I thought I would attempt to define strategy in business.
I like this definition that I got at wikipedia:
Strategic management is a level of managerial activity below setting goals and above tactics.
Strategy takes what you want to achieve and develops a plan to get there. From strategy you can develop tactics and implement them.
For me, strategy is as much about what you are not going to do as what you are going to do. Also from wikipedia:
Strategy is important because the resources available to achieve these goals are usually limited.
Strategy also involves how you are going to differentiate from competitors. Competitors are a given in business. How you compete with them will define the business. I like this framework a lot:
The basis of competition
Companies derive competitive advantage from how an organization produces its products, how it acts within a market relative to its competitors, or other aspects of the business. Specific approaches may include:
- Differentiation, in which products compete by offering a unique combination of features.
- Cost, in which products compete to offer an acceptable list of features at the lowest possible cost.
- Segmentation, in which products are tailored for the unique needs of a specific market, instead of trying to serve all consumers.
Strategic thinking can be seen in other disciplines outside of business. Two areas I have studied carefully are sports and the military. Winning teams and winning armies have often won because they have out strategized the losing team. You can see that in the Revolutionary War when Washington was outmanned and outgunned. And yet his strategic moves put the British on the defensive and eventually won the war.
Don't think you are going to win in business with a better product, more capital, or a bigger team. You can't just throw resources at a market and expect to win. The winner in a market most often has the best strategy and exectutes it well.
So read up on strategic thinking. Chandler and Drucker would be my two choices. Sun Tzu would also be on the list. Henry V by Shakespeare might also be worth reading.
And make sure that your company has both mission and vision (goals) and a strategy. It's too easy to skip from goals to tactics and you will not be well served by doing that.