Category Archives: Quotes

What is a business strategy?

Strategy is a word that comes up over and over again in business. You’ve got to have the right strategy; marketing strategies, finance strategies, HR strategies; you can find all sorts of strategy building advice and templates online (Google produces 638 million results for the search term “business strategy”); but really… What is business strategy?

A strategy is a like a route mapMichael Porter (very clever man) defined a business strategy as the “broad formula for how a business is going to compete, what its goals should be, and what policies will be needed to carry out those goals”.

That’s a pretty good definition, in essence a strategy is the route map for getting from where you are now to where you want to be in the future.

So to work out a strategy you need two things: a clear picture of what “here” looks like, and a good idea of where “there” is.

What?!

If you don’t know where you want to be in the future this is a good time to stop and think about it!

Where do you want to be in 5 years time?Why are you doing what you’re doing? What would you like to be doing? What do you enjoy and what would you like to change? This isn’t your strategy – they are your goals or objectives.

These are big ideas, they take a bit of thinking about. But what I’ve learned is that you don’t need to know all the answers for certain at this stage – if you start now you have time on your side, time to move the goal posts more than once!

Possibly an easier question is “What don’t you want? What shouldn’t the future be like?” most of us have a pretty good idea straight away.

Which way?

A map is no good unless you know where you're starting from!You can’t build a strategy without a good idea of your current circumstances. The route map analogy is useful here – a map won’t help you get home unless you can work out where you are starting from so it pays to take some time to write down what you’ve got that you like and enjoy and what you are not so happy about.

Strategy time!

When you know where you’re starting from and where you’re going to the final piece of the jigsaw is to link the two up – set out your preferred route from “here” to “there” in a series of manageable steps.

It is often difficult to see where to start in order to make progress (if it was easy you would have already got there!) but it can be much easier if you break the route down into smaller steps. Over the following years you can weigh up every decision you make against this strategy and see whether or not it will help you reach your goal.

Meaning is like psychological oxygenAt the moment I am reading The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success by Kevin Dutton and Andy McNab. In it Andy McNab points out that “meaning is like psychological oxygen” – knowing why you’re working hard is the most effective personal power source.

He then goes on to tell a story that illustrates how (in his words) “There’s nothing like a task that is both pointless and physically draining to rip the **** out of you, especially if you don’t know when it’s going to end.”

To me this is where the biggest benefit of a strategy is – if you know that you’re on your way to your better world your effort is not pointless. You are working towards something, you can measure your progress along the way.

Lean In: Lessons from Sheryl Sandberg

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
Spencer Johnson, Who moved my cheese

I have just finished reading the book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg.

I was curious when I started reading because really the only feedback I had heard about it was Sandberg was preaching that women need to try harder (“lean in”) which was easy for her to say with a huge salary and a nanny.

That wasn’t the message that I got from the book though.

I am definitely guilty of being over modest about my achievements and sometimes allowing self doubt to hold me back. Sandberg explores the reasons why women are more likely than men to act this way as well as looking at how even in the 21st Century attitudes can inhibit women from aspiring to senior business roles.

In the first chapter of the book Sandberg explores the quote above and it really resonated with me: being afraid could be something as simple as being too embarrassed to speak out in a meeting where everyone else is agreeing.

This year I have made a resolution to look out for times when being afraid stops me from doing something and then challenge myself to overcome the fear.