Forming a strategy

April 13, 2007

When combined, strategic thinking tools discussed in earlier columns compose a kind of tool kit that provides the essentials required for a detailed business strategy. But these tools must be used effectively to meet their potential. We will, therefore, consider the factors necessary (and, we hope, sufficient) to create a detailed business strategy and see how the tools can enable the development of that strategy. The following examples serve simply as a starting point.

When combined, strategic thinking tools discussed in earlier columns compose a kind of tool kit that provides the essentials required for a detailed business strategy. But these tools must be used effectively to meet their potential. We will, therefore, consider the factors necessary (and, we hope, sufficient) to create a detailed business strategy and see how the tools can enable the development of that strategy. The following examples serve simply as a starting point.

  • Distinctive competence: a unique direction or action. Consider in this regard the strategic thinking tool, the vision statement (DI SCAN 05/08/06 How vision determines success). This statement provides purpose, where we want to go and what we want to do, and the mission, which outlines the elements of the strategy needed to achieve the purpose. The vision statement clearly provides a unique direction by selecting a specific set of strategy elements. It defines the distinctive competence of the company.

  • Outward-looking thought process. Consider the High 5 (DI SCAN 04/07/06 High 5 highlights importance of understanding the competition) strategic thinking tool, which focuses on the customer, specifically the factors the customer most wants in a product. In that sense, the High 5 provides the market vision of what is important, analyzes customer needs and wants, and could be used to provide competitive differentiation. These areas are all based on an outward-looking thought process.

  • Organizing for effective execution. Consider the sheet of music strategic thinking tool, which consists of a series of columns, with each column representing individual sections of the organization. Within each column is a list of the most important activities during a specific period of time, such as six months. Within this framework, the sheet of music provides an approach for each member of the team to easily understand the essential activities of the other members of the team and how they integrate together. For example, manufacturing can consider what the marketing team should tell the customer while making sure that the engineering program is advanced enough to manufacture the product in a way that meets the marketing plan. In this way, the sheet of music assists the team in having a consistent set of activities and, hence, organizes for effective execution.

The High 5 can also be used for organizational purposes. It serves the internal customer (the employee), as well as the external customer. Having a High 5 of the most important considerations needed to satisfy employees can go a long way toward maintaining the team's focus on its most precious resource: people. For each employee, a plan can easily be put in place to make sure that each of the elements of the individual's High 5 are in place.

  • Plan for changing direction in response to opportunities and threats. Consider the 2x2 (DI SCAN 08/09/06 Successful technology implementation makes medical imaging tick) strategic thinking tool. The 2x2 guides the examination of alternative paths. One of the four boxes in the 2x2 represents the starting point (the "Now" situation). A second, usually located diagonally from the first, represents the future target. One set of dimensions for the 2x2, for example, might be present service versus new service. Another could be present market segment versus new market segment.

The choice of path from the now (present service and market segment) to the future target (new service and market segment) depends on the strategy and its associated risks. One alternative is to maintain the market segment while changing services. The other alternative is to maintain the service being offered while changing the market segment. Ultimately, one would consider both new services and new market segments.

  • Timing the deployment of resources. Consider the growth development curve (DI SCAN 09/25/06 Planning sets framework for evolving medical practice) strategic thinking tool. This curve provides an approach to considering the sequence in which strategic steps should be executed. It allows the team to discuss the ordering of events, taking into account the amount of overlap that might be permitted, as well as critical hand-offs between the end of one event and the start of another.

Applying strategic thinking tools in this way leads to the satisfaction of key strategic criteria and, consequently, the attainment of an overall business strategy.

Ronald Schilling is an editorial advisor to Diagnostic Imaging and president of RBS Consulting in Los Altos Hills, CA. Comments can be addressed to ronald11341@aol.com.