How Simple is Your Strategy?

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

Over the years, I’ve been fascinated by strategy development and execution. I used to think it was complicated – almost like a scientific formula or algorithm.

But I’ve learned from over 20-plus years of working with clients – and some of the best experts – that the best strategies are incredibly simple. In fact, if a strategy can’t be explained in 30 seconds, to someone who knows nothing about your business, you have work to do.

Many people like to talk about strategic thinking and get excited about ideas, but mastery is in thinking of simple things that give you an advantage, appeal to your customers, and focus on what makes your business highly effective and different.

In a recent discussion with a very smart executive, I was shown all these models of what they’d been working on, which they thought needed an hour to go through, with the team. I said that if they couldn’t cover it in 60 to 90 seconds, they weren’t ready, and I asked them to go back to the drawing board to boil it down – with my help, if needed.

The Right Model

Now the right model can be helpful in the strategic planning process. Here are a few we use:

  • The Hedgehog and the Flywheel, developed by Jim Collins, is a great way to see where to focus and how to build the momentum to an uncontrollable, positive force. He wrote a new, very powerful monogram on this recently
  • The Fourth Option by Kaihan Krippendorf offers four strategic ideas that are often overlooked but deserve time and attention to bring a strategy to life
  • Blue Ocean Strategy gives you a visual strategy map in which you can clearly see how you uniquely deliver value to your customers and not get stuck being a commodity
  • The Harvard Business Review article Can You Say What Your Strategy Is? shows a Venn diagram that really summarizes strategy – and I call it the most important slide you need to do and see to understand strategy
  • Finally, Michael Porter’s The Five Forces you a good model to take an external view of your business and the changing, competitive forces shaping your industry.

You may already have a perfect strategy but if you can articulate it through one of these simple models, it’ll force you to be simpler and more understandable – and to stick to it.

And when it comes to execution, the One-Page Strategic Plan from the book Scaling Up (on which I was a key contributor) is a simple and powerful framework to bring any strategy to life – and quickly understand who on your team is great at execution and who may not be.

After all, if you can’t execute, there’s no point doing the strategy.

The Challenge

  • Can you articulate your strategy in 30 to 60 to 90 seconds?
  • Which of the models above would help you to refine then articulate your strategy?

If you want help to clarify or improve your strategy – or ensure its most effective execution – from someone on our well-versed team, let us know.