Thursday, March 20, 2008

Jump Start Your Strategy Development

Presented by John Maver at the Institute for International Research

Strategy is about determining what is really important and what you can do to influence it. Creating successful strategies depends more on asking the right questions and getting good answers than on getting great answers to the wrong questions.

Senior executives know the value of strategic planning. Sometimes they just need a little help to get started. Here are some Jump Starting Questions. Don’t rush through them. Involve your full executive team and discuss the responses. It will lead to a much better plan.

Who are you?

This sounds like a ridiculously simple question but it is the key to starting with the right questions. It sets the general definition of the boundaries within which you will seek answers to your questions and the platform upon which to build.
• How do you define your market to maximize your opportunities?
• Who are your customers? What are their needs?

What’s in it for me, the Customer?

Businesses are a complex network of issues but there are only a few things that really make the difference in the marketplace. This is your core. You should be able to summarize the responses in 5 bullet points or less.
• What distinguishes the winners from the losers in your market?
• What fundamental benefits are you providing customers?
• How would your customers answer these questions? Don’t be afraid to actually ask them.

Look back. What have you learned?

Change in most businesses happens incrementally. Building a reasonably complete picture at discreet points in time 1 to 3 years ago and comparing each to the current reality can maximize learning. Don’t focus on results. Focus on the assumptions you made. They drive the results.
• What have you learned since your last strategic plan?
• How valid were the assumptions used then and why?
• How does that impact your current assumptions?
• What conventional wisdom about your industry might be incorrect?

Look around in the present. How are you vulnerable?

Exposing your underbelly. Analyzing threats and opportunities is an age-old technique. But the answers can sometimes be politically charged based on the respondent’s point of view. This is designed to reduce the biases to the extent possible.
· The Frontal Attack - If you were made CEO of your competitor tomorrow, how would you attack the plan you are developing today?
• The Side Attack - If you were a small start-up company entering your market, what would you do to carve out the most profitable niche at the expense of your current business?

Look forward. “What If …?”

Step into the future. Suspend reality. Look at the extreme ends of the spectrum of possibilities. Force out the key assumptions.
• Doom and Gloom – If there is only a small chance that results could possibly be worse, what are the aspects of the future state? What external events and internal actions on your part led to this dismal position? - What can you do about them?
• Nirvana - If there is only a small chance that results could possibly be better, what are the aspects of the future state? What external events and internal actions on your part led to this spectacular position? - What can you do to capitalize on them?

Is that all there is?

Examine all the possibilities for incremental business, now that you have opened your mind.
• What related markets are you not serving now?
• What new benefits could you provide?

How do you get there from here?

There are a number of proven formats to capture the data you have generated from your questions and develop the right Strategic Plan for your business. You may already have one that fits your needs. Use it. Then keep your plan current.

We use a simple, action-oriented, living, document format with our clients. If you want a sample, contact me at


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

1 comment:

Lewis said...

Past state, current state, future state. You have it covered, John. All strategic thinking begins and ends with analysis of where we came from, where we are and where we are going. Then we can work on the how we are going to get there (the tactics).