by Tony Vidler
What’s the cunning plan to make this year truly awesome?
What is the strategy?
Those 2 questions are actually the same question. The cunning idea, or the strategy, is THE single thing that will make the most significant difference to the commercial performance of a practice.
At its most simple level strategy could be defined as “my cunning idea to achieve superiority”. That’s what it is all about in reality: it is how one is going to achieve better or superior results compared to others in the same market. Strategy isn’t the goal, which is a common misconception. A strategy is the primary concept that will lead to achieving the goal. The goal is simply the end result which will be achieved if the strategy was successfully executed.
Even though many professionals SAY they understand the differences between these concepts, and that they really truly know what strategy is, it seems they struggle to express what their own business strategy is. Of those who can express their strategy without having to refer to the planning document that was filed away last year after the full days planning session with the partners, a whiteboard and an expensive consultant (but which hasn’t been look at again since), the strategy is more often than not meaningless drivel, such as:
“we adopt a business mindset to succeed“.
Seriously. That is a particular professional services firm’s “strategy”. Apparently.
This type of strategic statement is worse than useless. It potentially confuses people within the organisation which is bad enough, however it is also dangerous because it is a navel-gazing strategy. That is, it turns the focus inwards within the firm, and away from the marketplace. Great strategy has an outward focus that centres upon engaging with the target market or commercial opportunity, and gives guidance on how the firm will choose to compete to achieve its goals.
Great strategy assists people within the firm to determine how best to use resources, time and effort to compete or differentiate by delivering value.
Delivering value is what it is all about isn’t it? If a service firm is delivering value successfully then it will prosper. If it does so exceptionally well then it will achieve superior results in comparison to the market.
So perhaps the better question to have asked at the beginning is:
What’s the cunning plan for delivering exceptional value to our target market this year?
I am willing to bet that if you do have a cunning plan that is focused upon delivering exceptional value in the area where your firm wishes to compete, and if the cunning plan is executed well, then your firm will have an awesome year.