How to Cross-Examine Your Strategy

What defines a strategy? Do you have a strategy? If you do, then how will you know if it’s a good strategy that ought to be kept in operation? First off, let’s get clear on what is not a strategy. Hope is not a strategy, and neither are your dreams and desires. The thoughts and emotions and platitudes of company leadership are also not strategies. Instead, a real strategy is something built upon the tangible rocks of results. What this means is that a real strategy is something which is intimately connected with very specific aims. Strategy under this frame becomes the general orientation of action and choice which is employed as the means to realize these very specific aims. So now that it’s become clearer what constitutes a strategy, it’s time to look at the questions your strategy better have the correct answers to in order for it to be a good strategy.

What is the Aim to Achieve?

Does your strategy know what it wants? And even if it does know what it wants, is this desire vaguely articulated as a general fantasy, or is it more drawn out using clearly defined objectives and numbers. As an example to illustrate this point, just consider the difference between saying “I want more money” versus saying “I want exactly $50,000 more in cash than I have now by the end of this month”. Specificity here is the aim.

Who, What, Where, and How?

Will your strategy require more interactions with customers? Will it require that you focus more of your company’s resources on a specific geographic location? Are there any products of yours which are specifically singled out for the purposes of the strategy? What behaviors, actions, systems, and resources are necessary for the successful implementation of the strategy? In what fashion will new resources be acquired or new systems be implemented? Everyone knows already that the Devil hides in the details. But did you also know that in the case of result-oriented strategies, an ignorance of details represents an even worse Devil?

Why Might it Fail?

To assume success is guaranteed to you just because your strategy is specific in what it wants to achieve and detailed in how it wants to achieve it is a surefire way to watch your promising strategy crumble to the ground because of a potential fault in its structure which you failed to notice during its construction. Always assume that anything bad that can happen eventually will happen and that you need to be prepared for these bad happenings when they inevitably arise. In terms of strategy this means having contingency plans or alternative resource allocation schemes in case one of the many assumptions you’ve made in the construction of your strategy turns out to be unjustified.