The ONE word missing from almost every strategy I see

As you can imagine, I get a lot of people sending me strategies for feedback.

And thanks to the fact that most of them have followed the steps in my book, they tend to be pretty good.  Definitely not the monstrosities that you normally see under the label of “strategy”.

But there is one problem I’ve noticed that’s started to become a pattern, and it’s this:

  • Too much focus on outcome, not enough focus on method

What this means is that many strategies I see state the value they hope to deliver the customer (which is good), but then neglect to mention how they are going to do it (which is not so good).

To put it another way, they’re missing one simple word:


As in “we deliver X value by doing Y”.

The first reason this is important is because without it you might be dealing with more of a goal than a strategy.  The value you hope to offer becomes an aspiration, and then you need to figure out another “strategy” to determine how you’re going to deliver it.

The second, perhaps even more pressing reason you need this section, is because this is where you spell out the practical difference between your company and its competitors.  It’s where you spell out your innovation, your unique way of doing things, your lever of disruption.

There must be something real there, that you do different, that results in this differentiated value offering.

In my case for instance, I can’t just say:

“I offer strategy that motivates action”.

That might be a value offering, but alone it simply sounds like a wish – or worse, a boast.  No, I have to back that up, by saying something like:

“I offer strategy that motivates action by making it quick and informal”.

(There’s more to it than that, but just illustrating the point)

Without this, a strategy becomes more of a “vibe” than something which is going to open up fresh market space.  In some cases this might be sufficient, but I wouldn’t count on it.

So how do we do it?

Well to be honest, if your strategy is solid and not just a load of hot air, this should be pretty easy.

After all, the main way you develop a strategy is to identify the unique qualities a business has, and then extrapolate a value offering from them.  This means you have already identified the how, in order to arrive at the value offering.

If however you just jumped to a random value offering, without it having emerged from the business in some way, I would have to question what it was based on.  How do you know it works, and that it’s well suited to you, if it wasn’t pulled from some sort of experience?

Again, it is possible to create an “out of thin air” strategy like this.  But then the pressure is even greater to identify how you’re going to deliver it.

So no matter which way you cut it, it’s gotta be there.

All in all, I can only applaud the focus on value I’ve been seeing.  It’s a massive step, and THE central mindset shift toward becoming more strategic.

Don’t lose it.

But at the same time – don’t forget to back it up.

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