Can You Say What Your Strategy Is

5768 Words Jan 17th, 2012 24 Pages
www.hbr.org

It’s a dirty little secret: Most executives cannot articulate the objective, scope, and advantage of their business in a simple statement. If they can’t, neither can anyone else.

Can You Say What Your Strategy Is? by David J. Collis and Michael G. Rukstad

Reprint R0804E

It’s a dirty little secret: Most executives cannot articulate the objective, scope, and advantage of their business in a simple statement. If they can’t, neither can anyone else.

Can You Say What Your Strategy Is? by David J. Collis and Michael G. Rukstad

COPYRIGHT © 2008 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Can you summarize your company’s strategy in 35 words or less? If so, would your colleagues put it
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Engineers in the R&D department are creating a product with “must have” features for which (as the marketing group could have told them) customers will not pay; the sales force is selling customers on quick turnaround times and customized offerings even though the manufacturing group has just invested in equipment designed for long production runs; and so on. If you pass a magnet over those filings, what happens? They line up. Similarly, a well-understood statement of strategy aligns behavior within the business. It allows everyone in the organization to make individual choices that reinforce one another, rendering those 10,000 employees exponentially more effective. What goes into a good statement of strategy? Michael Porter’s seminal article “What Is Strategy?” (HBR November–December 1996) lays out the characteristics of strategy in a conceptual fashion, conveying the essence of strategic choices and distinguishing them from the relentless but competitively fruitless search for operational efficiency. However, we have found in our work both with executives and with students that Porter’s article does not answer the more basic question of how to describe a particular firm’s strategy. It is a dirty little secret that most executives don’t actually know what all the elements of

a strategy statement are, which makes it impossible for them to develop one. With
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