From a young age strategy has been a mainstay in my vocabulary. As a child I tended to react quickly and impulsively striving for action over inaction. On numerous occasions my parents counseled me on thinking through the second and third order effects of the decisions I made. Forcing me out of linear thought processes and into systemic thought patterns. Seeing the world through a bird’s eye view my attention to detail waned while my overall perspective grew.
Throughout my career I was placed in situations earlier where I could evaluate and participate in long term organizational thinking that would have been expected of an early career professional. Under great tutelage I was able to facilitate vision and strategic planning sessions with an ability to tie the day to day activities to the over direction the company was moving. It began with simplistic planning of developing vision statements and the development of goals to achieve those visions. I was able to carry that skill set into different industries and created my own mental model of what strategic thinking consisted of.
With the progression of my career, greater clarity came to light and I began to see the lack of strategy around me. First, I believed that the apparent lack of strategic thinking was due to it being held tightly at high levels. I did have the expectation that it would trickle down eventually in the actions taken, but it never came. Confused over the overarching ineffectiveness of the organizations I was a part of I took to researching the topic more.
Having a background in the military and a family of historians, my first spot to look was at the great commanders of history. Captivated by Caesar’s Gallic wars and expanding into new territories. The fascination shifted to Napoleon and his ability to use speed and concentration of force to claim a constant flow of victories. Then I fell entranced with Ulysses Grant and his untethering of the Army’s supply chain to wreak havoc across the Confederacy.
The remembrance of the past whetted my appetite on how this would be relevant today. I shifted to the great strategic thinkers of modern time with Michael Porter and his 5 Forces. Then onto the numerous works of Roger Martin. Followed by Richard Rumelt’ s “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy” my mind was now opened to the hidden world of complex strategic thinking in a business setting.
This process took me beyond seeing strategy as a self-focused be your best approach to factoring in the competition. While achieving self-actualization is admirable, it loses the aim that the purpose of a strategy is truly about understanding the customer and providing greater value to them than your competitor.
To some, the focus of beating your competition seems barbaric. However, overwhelming or even damaging your competition is the cornerstone of your sustainability. Be it a for profit or non-profit organization, winning keeps you alive. Approaching your strategy in this manner will provide you with better insight into the value you produce, and it will start the flywheel of future successes.
This approach to strategy is well known especially amongst the large corporations that typically enlist the Big 5 consulting firms to set their direction. I then took many of the consultancy best practices and developed this strategic planning model. Testing this model showed that it was not only scalable to medium sized organizations but even more effective when applied with small businesses.
The reason for the increased effectiveness based on the size of the organization was due to the key aspects of time and resources. Large companies can pay a consulting firm to develop new strategies. However, they are battling other large companies that are doing the same thing. However, small businesses typically don’t develop thorough strategies because they are treading water. They lack the resources to pay a firm nor do they don’t have the time or expertise to do it themselves leaving them open to assault.
The goal of this work is to explain the strategic process. A guide to lead you through being able to do it yourself. Written for the small business. For the owner, the founder, or even the team leader. How can you position yourself in the market and rise head and shoulders above your competition.
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