Golden Rules for Strategy

In the past months I have been working with several clients on their strategic goals. I have found that if you want to do strategy well, you need to distinguish between goals, boundaries, and options.

A strategic goal is a measurable objective. It’s specific and describes the current state (from) and a future state (to). Furthermore it has a deadline. Finally, you can’t be successful with your strategy if one or more goals are not achieved. An example of a good goal is to grow market share in the Asia Pacific region from 4% to 6% at the end of 2020.

boundary is a specific condition which should be met under all circumstances. It’s measurable and if you cross the boundary, your strategy fails. An example of a boundary is zero OSHA recordables.

An option is an alternative to achieve a strategic goal. You can still be successful with your strategy, even if you have failed to be successful with one or more options. For example, if the goal is to grow market share in the Asia Pacific region from 4% to 6%, options are to:

  • Sell existing products more frequently to existing clients.
  • Sell more expensive products to existing clients.
  • Sell existing products to new clients.
  • etc.

With this is in mind, there are five golden rules for the execution of any strategic plan:

  1. Simple: Choose as few strategic goals as possible, but not fewer. Common mistake: Adopt too many goals.
  2. Focus: Be rigid about achieving your strategic goals. Common mistake: Quickly abandon ambitious goals at the first sign of difficulty.
  3. Expansive: Develop as many options as possible to achieve your strategic goals. Common mistake: Develop only a single option for every goal.
  4. Freedom: Be flexible about your options to achieve these strategic goals. Common mistake: Let flexible options slowly morph into rigid goals.
  5. Stringent: Monitor key KPI’s of boundary conditions. If a key KPI slips, immediately take drastic measures to ensure compliance. Common mistake: Complacency, leading to loss of urgency. 

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/babyrhino

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