Strategy and tactics are easy to understand, and often very complicated. The strategy is what we want to do, and the tactics are how we are going to do it. The ideas behind the what-how of strategy and tactics can be applied to many fields. While traditionally related to warfare, any intensely competitive enterprise can benefit from strategic and tactical thinking.
When does strategy fail?
The best strategy still needs sustainability. Thinking of wars lost by brilliant strategists, we understand that supply lines need to remain open, and resources need to get to the troops. In business, sustainability and market share are the essentials, and we have to be sure we have these two elements locked up before a strategy can be successfully planned.
Sustainability is worth a hard look at where the system could break down and bring the entire house of cards with it. A supply chain problem, transportation challenges, cash flow, or workforce issue--if all of these factors can be fixed with some reasonable problem-solving, we're good to go. If one of them is critical but vulnerable, consider that issue the weak link in the chain. The business is vulnerable and not sustainable until that link is strengthened.
Market share is the other critical piece.
A business of any kind has to have a market share or a potential market share. We have to know who our market is, and we have to have a product or service that market needs. If your market share has not been identified carefully, that needs to be done pre-strategy planning.
So we have a sustainable business and an identified market share. What do we want to do with this business we've made? Both leadership and the workforce can contribute to strategic thinking. It might be a strong team-building exercise to see how everyone within the chain of command feels about what the business should be working toward, what goals are worth the work. Many companies begin with a triad of new-think goals: transparency, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility. If these goals are part of the business values, enough that they are encoded in the business, they should be part of strategic planning.
Profit can be considered a goal or the means to a goal. Thinking of profit as a tool of the business, like an engaged workforce or intellectual property keeps money from becoming the loudest voice in the room. It is part of the sustainability of the system, but it is not, for most business, what the company is trying to accomplish in the world.
What are we trying to accomplish?
Considering the personal resources we bring to business ventures, it is worth thinking big. We have a sustainable business model and a planned market share.
What do we want our business to do in the world?
- Do we want to provide employment opportunities to people with disabilities
- Do we want to bring healthy alternatives to the fast-food market?
- Do we want to change the way fabric is dyed so there are less environmental consequence?
- Insert what you want your business to do for the world. It has to be a reason that you resonate with.
We can think big because it's our business. If your goal is only to survive the brutal first year, then the best you can hope for if all goes according to plan is survival.
With the goal in hand, it's time for strategic thinking.
The goal is essential for planning. It can be considered the backbone of the enterprise, and every planned action should be able to pass a backbone-test: does the next action you take move the goal forward? What do we want to do, and how do we do it? Both the strategy and the tactics should be in line with the goals, and with the business values.
When planning your marketing strategy, the market share is an important variable.
While demographics can give us some direction, remembering the long tail is important, and the issue of negative space. Think of a painting of a black coffee cup on a white background. If your identified demographic group is the black coffee cup, and you focus your efforts on that cup, you have chosen, then, to not focus any resources on the white background. That negative space, the area and the market share left when your cup is taken away, may also be worth some thought.
When we think of the long tail, or, for old school thinking, the Bell Curve, we know that there is a majority, and there are the outliers. With a world population growing exponentially, and the world becoming more connected through mobile money and global transportation, the outliers are a pretty big market share.
First, is your business sustainable, and does it have an identified market share? Second, what are your business goals and values? When that work is done, strategic thinking is brought to the table. What do we want to do, and how are we going to do it, and how fast do you want to get there?