How much more organizational growth would you have seen if you had concentrated your efforts and made tough strategic choices — choices to understand what winning really means?
These choices can create a distinct competitive advantage for your organization. As an executive coach, I have worked with many leaders who try to be all things to all people. They aren’t focused on making the hard strategic choices. But strategy is about making choices, no matter how difficult, to help you win. Most organizations have not defined “winning” in strategic terms. You must first figure out what winning looks likes. Defining the win sets the foundation for all other strategic choices in your organization.
As entrepreneurs and CEOs implement winning strategic frameworks, some really cool things start to happen. They start identifying products, markets and segments that don’t fit in with their overall winning strategy. With these insights, they can start moving toward competitive differentiation and identifying unique capabilities to help them win.
Inspired by the framework outlined in Alan G. Lafley and Roger Martin’s book, Playing to Win, I suggest that CEOs and entrepreneurs ask themselves a hard question: Do we really have a strategy? Let’s take a look at the top four reasons you need a winning strategic framework and how to implement this strategy:
1. You don’t have a strategy.
You may have a vision statement and a mission statement, but that isn’t the same as having a strategy. Not having a defined strategy creates an environment of dysfunction, leading to more risk and inefficiencies. To create a strategy, you must first answer strategic questions: What is your winning aspiration? How will you win? What are your core capabilities? What management systems do you have in place?
Answering these tough questions leads to greater clarity and focus. I have worked with a number of CEOs who have ten-plus years of experience, yet they revealed that “we have never had a strategy.” They had plans but no strategy.
2. You have a participation mindset, not a winning mindset.
A participation mindset means that you are in an industry chasing the same customers with the same products and services in the same way as your competitors. You have defined your win as being or doing better than the competition. This mindset results in a lack of commitment, excitement and passion within your organization.
A winning mindset, on the other hand, means that you have clearly spelled out your competitive position to your customers. For example, your winning aspiration could be reaching the No. 1 position in your industry segment or market. Someone with this winning mindset says that if they can’t win in that industry, then they need to consider getting out of the business.
3. You try to be all things to all people.
This creates a heavy and inefficient organization. Strategic leadership is about doing some things and not others. Human nature leads us to do more and more, rather than being laser focused in a concentrated area. Focus on doing a few things well, and it will lead to higher growth.
4. Your traditional strategic planning is not strategic at all.
This results in a less innovative organization and competing priorities. Organizations get caught up in identifying goals and objectives that they think are the right ones for them. SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis can be useful but generally does little to move the needle on your competitive position. Vision statements and mission statements are included in every business plan but have little impact on the overall activities of the organization. In fact, most leaders cannot even repeat them.
A recent client wanted to grow at a higher level. When I asked the hard questions, they realized that their strategy was growth. However, they had to gain an understanding that growth is an outcome or tactic, not a strategy. When we implemented a winning strategic framework, they shut down three product lines that were taking the focus off of their core business and customers. This resulted in improved efficiency and higher closing percentages, resulting in three times more growth than the previous year.
There are many misconceptions about the winning strategic framework that can create barriers to implementation. Here are a few examples:
1. It is only designed for large companies.
Making strategic choices is a must for nonprofits, solopreneurs and organizations of any size that wants to win and perform at the highest level.
2. We have done and are doing well, so we don’t need to change anything.
If you have not defined your aspirations and the winning choices you need to make to get there, then more than likely you have created an inefficient organization and have inhibited grow.
3. Making changes creates more risk.
In actuality, making hard choices will help you and your team remove ambiguity, achieve more and reduce risk.
Leaders want to be successful, but making hard choices can elevate their fears. However, a winning strategic framework helps to remove these fears and move organizations to ones that are focused and higher performing.