While attending a meeting with other chamber executives from across the country, I had the opportunity to hear A.G. Lafley, former chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble, share his thoughts on the importance of strategy as outlined in his book “Playing to Win,” that he co-authored with Roger Martin.
The authors are quick to point out that there is no perfect strategy. However, they do say that there are signals, referred to as strategy traps, which indicate that an organization has a worrisome strategy. Some may sound familiar:
- The Do-It-All Strategy – Failing to make choices and making everything a priority. Strategy is a choice.
- The Don Quixote Strategy – Attacking “walled cities” or taking on the strongest competitor first. Where you “play” is a choice. Pick somewhere you can have a chance to win.
- The Waterloo Strategy – Starting wars on multiple fronts with multiple competitors at the same time. You can’t do everything well. If you try, at best all you can hope for is doing everything mediocrely.
- The Something-for-Everyone Strategy – Attempting to capture all customer or geographic segments at once. To create real value, you have to choose some constituents really well and not worry about the others.
- The Dreams-That-Never-Come-True Strategy – Developing high aspirations that never get translated into concrete where-to-play and how-to-win choices, core capabilities, and management systems. Aspirations are not strategy.
- The Program-of-the-Month Strategy – Settling for generic strategies in which all competitors are doing the same thing. Choices should be distinctive. The more your choices look like those of your competitors, the less likely you are to ever win.
On the other hand, in organizations that are soaring and breaking away from the pack, I’m seeing these winning strategies:
- Better Focus – Hard for many to grasp, but doing fewer (but the correct) things may actually result in more value to your members.
- Fighting for Solutions – What pain are you remedying or relieving? People buy into organizations that will work to help find solutions and help them succeed.
- Think Like Your Members – Put yourself in their shoes. It’s not what you believe, but what they believe that’s important.
- Excel at Communicating Value – It’s always a challenge, but the best organizations know how to clearly deliver their message in a way that resonates with their members.
- Professional Development – A corporate culture that embraces life-long learning for your team will be more successful.
Over the years, I’ve seen many organizations develop a risk-averse attitude and embrace strategy traps. But others, sometimes right next door in a neighboring community, decide to “boldly go where no one has gone before” and play a leadership role in solving important business or community problems that are impacting their members.
My advice in life and business: While it may not be easy or safe, whenever possible, avoid the strategy traps and always play to win!