Sir Edmund Hillary looked up and felt a chill go down his spine. It was in front of the 8,848 meters from Everest, the highest mountain in the world and whose summit until now no man had managed to get there. That was his goal, but he was clear that if he intended to climb it with just a backpack on the back that was a passport to certain death in the dark, frozen and lonely. He needed a strategy to achieve his goal and it had to be a viable and consistent strategy that allows him to achieve what no man had ever achieved.
A bad strategy means that we will go behind a vague and diffuse objective, using resources and capabilities that we don’t really have, to win in the same way that our competitors, without receiving feedback from anyone and assuming that the entire company understands and the one he can relentlessly execute.
Instead, a good strategy means that we will go behind a clear and meaningful objective, building on our strengths, to win in a different way than our competitors, seeking and incorporating opinions and facts, that relentlessly we will communicate to the entire company, in order to have a total focus on the critical objectives that will lead it ahead.
For within our own company, a good strategy clarifies us, focuses us and aligns us. But for our competitors a good strategy of ours may at first be entertaining (they don’t take us seriously), then confused when things start to work out (they see something is happening, but they don’t quite understand what) and finally surprising when it is already too late and there is no longer what to do (they understood the strategy, but could not react in time).
But how do you build a good strategy? Here we have 6 basic steps:
1 – Purpose and objective : How do we define success? We have to be very clear and specific about this and not go into ambiguous things like saying that we want to be the market leaders and things for the style. What is the exact mountain we are trying to climb?
2- What tools do we have? : What resources and strengths do we have? In what things are we really good ones? What processes help us to be more efficient and innovative? Do we have some association that is meaningful and can help us? The range of strategic options that we have will be determined by our resources and real capabilities, not because of our ambiguous ideals or desires.
3 – What makes us different? : Because our clients choose us over others alternatives? What do our clients care about us? And if we don’t know how to answer clearly this question then we have a serious communication problem in sales and Marketing. The differentiation can not only be in the product itself but also in the sales team, the distribution channels, customer service, etc. Many companies confidently admit that their strategy is to be mediocre in the same way that their competitors are and they do not feel that they have any differential factor. That is vegetarian!
4 – Where do we compete? : Actually the correct question would be “where do we win?” What is it really that matters to create a winning strategy? Where do we compete and win? Where do we compete, but don’t win? Who are ours best and our worst customers? Have we ever fired a client, or have we not submitted to a tender, or we have told a salesperson not to keep pushing a customer for you to buy from us?
What many times happens is that it is generally difficult for us to say NO, which means that it is difficult to focus resources that are always limited. But if we are clear on where we win, where we can have a resounding YES, then it is easier to say NO where we are not competitive. Any winning strategy must be structured on our strengths and not on our weaknesses as is very common to see.
5 – Next step? : Finally, we have to look ahead. How are we going to win along with the weather? What is changing in each period of time? How are we going to prepare what’s next? What will be our course of action to execute what we are planning? A growth and expansion strategy may be linked to a new business unit, a new product, new geography or a new sales channel. But this has to be taken with care. What the company needs to grow again is a clear and focused effort on the markets where you already are, and with the products or services, you already have.
6 – Are we going forward? : To those who already have an excellent idea, share it with All the team… and nothing happens? So that this does not happen to us again, after going through the previous stages we need to make a plan.
What are the 3 most important things we have to do this year that they must have to be done? What are the short-term objectives that must be achieved so that the strategy can advance?
If our short-term plan:
– assumes that we really need something that we do not have in our toolbox then let’s dilate everything until we have that resource
– it does not rely on a factor where we generally win, so we have to stop it
– it does not rely on a differentiation factor, so we also have to stop it
Sir Edmund Hillary defined a clear goal: to reach the top of Everest What tools did he have? 362 people, who would carry everything necessary, 35 guides who knew the area, 18 tons of food and equipment, some experiences in similar adverse situations and some mountaineering training in New Zealand What made it different? People had been trying to climb Everest for decades and most died in the attempt. If you didn’t do something different, you would get the same result. And the key was to “be lazy”. That is, stop and rest more frequently. Have time to acclimate to mountain and recharge. In this way, he also added new elements to the box. Tools, energy and acclimatization, which other climbers have never had since they always they were in a rush to get to the top. Where could I win? With almost infinite alternatives to go from the base to the top and where to do the bases of rest, many other questions had to be answered such as: Going in summer or autumn? Go the north face or the south face? Enter via Nepal or via China? Strategies increase focus and mark a clear border between what we are going to do and what we are not going to do next step? That strategy that worked so well for us for the last 5 or 10 years may already be obsolete and everyone is replicating it. The hero of our adventure said: “While I was sitting At the top of Everest I looked across the valley and saw Makalu Mountain. Mentally work on a route of how he could climb it. That showed me that even when I was sitting at the highest point of the world, it wasn’t the end of everything. I kept looking at other challenging targets.”
We do not have to conquer a mountain but ourselves! The most complicated part of a the winning strategy is ourselves. I’m busy. I have things to do. It’s complicated. It requires changes in deeply held beliefs. You have to push everyone. All that requires much more energy than doing nothing. Let’s conquer ourselves, our habits and beliefs and any mountain is going to melt.
The easiest thing is to do nothing. We can have HOPE that our competitors also don’t they will do nothing and we can have FAITH that everything will stay alright and we can have LUCK one one more time. But HOPE is not a plan, FAITH is not a goal and LUCK is not a strategy!