Tag Archives: strategic planning

Acronyms: Does BS Stand for Business Strategy?

What do you think of when you see the acronym “BS?” Do you think of business strategy? Maybe you should.

I have nothing against real business strategy. I’ve posted on strategy often here. My favorites include 3 stories your business strategy depends on and defining small business strategy. My sense of it, boiling down three decades of small business — plus a fancy MBA degree — is that good strategy always looks, after the fact, like it was always obvious.

Strategy is focus, business strategy, small business strategy

Real business strategy is mostly just focus. It’s about what you don’t do, sort of like how a marble sculpture is formed what’s removed from the original block. Focus on what you and your business do best, what you do better and different, and then focus on a specific set of potential customers and focus again on building exactly what they want or need.

For example, a consultant who responds to an inquiry with “no, that’s not what I do” is executing strategy. A restaurant that doesn’t offer take-out or drive-through service is executing strategy. A gym catering especially to women is executing strategy.

But I do object to strategy as business buzzword, off-putting, arrogant pomp and positioning, a series of meetings, excuses not to get things done, or it’s obvious. Strategy frameworks are cool sometimes, and can make for good meetings; but real business doesn’t have a lot of time to sit around cooking up strategy.

Many years ago, when I was a vice president of a consulting firm named Creative Strategies, I realized that consulting on strategy is as hard to sell as consulting on sex or driving, because those are things most adults are sure they’re innately good at. And if you see strategy as logical focus, maybe that’s true.

One of the perks of having the MBA degree is license to be cynical about business jargon that .     So if I say that strategy is mostly either obvious — which is good — or useless; you can’t just dismiss that as ignorance. Well, okay, you can; but I hope you don’t.

I really enjoyed working for Creative Strategies, the consulting firm, and I still think strategy exists in a series of paradoxes. It can be wildly creative, seeing ahead of time what will seem obvious to all after it’s been executed. But success is one part strategy for every 99 parts execution; and that one part will seem like it was always obvious as soon as it’s been executed.

(image: istockphoto.com)

Should Your Strategy Be Constantly Changing?

I read Holly Green’s Shifting from Strategic Planning to Strategic Agility, on Forbes.com the other day. Ok, agile sounds good for a business. And the world does change rapidly, too. But what about this, from something I wrote about 10 years ago:

Better a mediocre strategy, consistently applied over time, than a series of brilliant strategies, changing rapidly, contradicting each other.

Is that no longer true? Here, in contrast, is Holly’s argument for strategic agility:

At its core, strategic planning involves a process of analysis. You do some research into what is and what is possible. You define a goal, break that goal down into manageable steps, and determine how to implement them while identifying the expected consequences of each step. It’s a logical, straightforward process designed to sequentially move the organization from where you are now to where you want to go.

The huge flaw in this is the assumption that the world is reasonably stable and somewhat predictable. Maybe a few generations ago. But anyone who has been paying attention the last few years knows that today’s world is neither.

That sounds reasonable as I read it, but in fact, I disagree. I don’t think strategic planning assumes that the world is stable and predictable. It does, however, assume that one core foundation of any strategy is your identity. It’s your uniqueness, what sets you apart from the rest of the world. That’s true for companies as much as for individuals. And that doesn’t change easily. You can change strengths and weaknesses only over a long time, and with a great deal of effort. So that part of strategy is relatively stable. And that’s a very important part.

Of course markets change, technologies change, and goals change; which is why the “agility” component is attractive. But strategic agility doesn’t replace strategy. I say good business strategy mixes long-term attributes with changing markets and focus, and of course it’s always a process, never fully stable. One element affects the other elements. It is never sequential. But strategy is also a matter of focus, understanding core identity, building positioning over time, and it takes consistency too.

What do you think?