The Art and Science of Strategy


Strategic success has no endpoint

Strategic success is rarely measured by a specific result or an individual accomplishment. To those of us at Strategy Partners, strategic success is determined by an organization’s ability to create a distinct preference for its products and services over time. Problems arise when companies become unduly fixated on time-limited outcomes (sales revenue, net income, etc.) instead of optimizing the processes that drive customer choice. This can lead to short-term operational fixes instead of long-term strategic problem solving. Pushing a sales team to sell harder is not a competitive or differentiating strategy. If you want better outcomes, you need better strategy.

Strategic success requires a committed process

Strategically competent organizations understand that strategy is not an event but an ongoing process. They recognize that it’s a process that cannot be limited by an arbitrary time frame or constrained by a 30-page planning document. They realize that the process is informed and driven by the fact that their industry, their competitors and their customers are constantly changing. They understand that the process must integrate the continuous changes in their people, their systems and their resources if it is to remain flexible and viable. Most of all, they know that the process serves the organization best when it is focused, adaptable and culturally integrated.

Competitiveness, value creation and differentiation

What constitutes strategic success? Definitions vary, but most experts agree that a strong strategic competency manifests itself in several identifiable ways, both within and outside the organization. Internally, strategic success can be seen by the organization’s strategic focus, discipline, alignment and adaptability. Externally, it can be measured by the organization’s competitiveness, value creation and differentiation.

  • Competitiveness. If you can’t compete, you can’t win. “Me too” companies rarely do well in today’s hyper-competitive economy. Finding the right competitive formula is critical to achieving long-term success and sustaining market relevance.
  • Value Creation. Creating enhanced value for your clients and customers is one of the most important elements of strategic effectiveness. Whether value is created through innovation, quality, price, service or some other key characteristic, it is a central tenet of strategic viability.
  • Differentiation. If your customers and clients have a hard time distinguishing you from your competition, you’ve got a problem. It’s a problem that typically leads to commoditization or intense price competition. Differentiating your products or services from your competitors (in ways that positively affect customer choice) is critical to strategic success.

Company executives who understand the need to become more strategic must ask themselves some hard questions. Are we competitive? Do we create recognizable and sustainable customer value? Is our company clearly differentiated in our marketplace? If it’s possible to say yes to all three, it’s likely you’re satisfying customer needs and driving customer demand better than most of your competition.

Benefits of the strategic process

Beyond the distinguishing success factors listed above, a strong strategic process provides collateral benefits to the organizations that embrace it.

  • It allows you to focus on your priorities, producing greater efficiency and effectiveness.
  • It provides a context for operational planning and budgeting.
  • It creates a culture of anticipation and innovation rather than one of reaction and defensiveness.
  • It quantifies accountability (e.g., through Goals and Action Plans).
  • It provides a base from which progress can be measured and establishes a mechanism for informed change when needed.