(Today, a short piece…)
As Chief Strategy Officer at Exabeam for the past three years, I have experienced many truths about strategy. Let me distill a few of them for easy consumption.
1. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”
This is what strategy is all about. It’s about having a plan that assumes that we’ll get punched in the mouth. What is a punch in the mouth? Covid hits and the world changes. The market pivots under your feet. A competitor comes up with that killer app first. You lose key members of your team. You will get punched in the mouth, will your plan be ready to roll with the punches?
2. “Let’s not confuse vision and strategy”
Vision is the future that you see in your crystal ball. Strategy is the best way to go from Point A to Point B, after you have defined what “best” means in this case. Do you want to optimize for risk avoidance, for resilience, for efficiency, for time to success, or something else? How does that influence the strategy?
3. “Strong convictions weakly held”. “Let’s not confuse my point of view with our strategy”. “Custodian of the process of organizational strategy”.
Strategy is not about pushing your convictions to the rest of the organization. Sure, it is important to have a well-educated and robust point of view, and to be able to defend that point of view. Equally or more important — the ability to adopt stronger realities and pivot when it makes sense for the organization. A good strategist is also a custodian, a shepherd of the strategy process on behalf of the organization. It is not your strategy, it is the organization’s strategy. Will you be able to build consensus?
4. “Strategy goes hand in hand with transformation and change management”. “It is about neural plasticity”
By definition strategy involves transformation — anticipating and adapting to changes. Change is probably the most difficult and energy consuming activity that you will encounter in your career and in your life. Do others around you have the same neural plasticity as you do? What about systems, processes and workflows, will your organization embrace or resist changes?
5. “Two thirds of strategies fail because of lack of execution”
The paradox about strategy is that success is all about execution. A strategy is not only a few great concepts that make sense, and a bunch of pretty slides that will get the organization excited. It is also about the discipline of relentless, diligent and consistent execution, day in and day out. Do you have the project and program management chops to get it to the finish line?
6. “The stronger the link between strategy and top or bottom line, the stronger the strategy.”
In any commercial enterprise, the goals are to generate revenues and minimize COGS. Your strategy must support one or both of these goals. Always keep an eye on the money target, and invest the time to articulate and demonstrate progress towards these dollar goals in order to ease change frictions along the journey.
Let me know in the comments below or via PM if you agree, or if you would like me to elaborate on any of these points.