From as far back as my days in brand management, I have held a deep affection for strategy. This might have something to do with the fact that I can be stubborn. Good strategists are also stubborn, even pigheaded. Why is that? Because without strategic stubbornness, the hard barrier lines that contain the strategy will blur. And when a brand or company’s positioning blurs, customers become confused. That’s never a good thing. Loose strategies jeopardize an organization’s specificity, hindering cultures built on, and committed to focus. Focused companies don’t fret about “doing more with less.” Focused companies thrive by “doing less, better.”
Tight Strategies Don’t Limit Opportunity. They Create It.
Despite the necessity for precision in purpose and direction, I see more and more examples of senior business executives operating non-strategically. We used to refer to this modus operandi as “doing business by the seat of the pants.” Seat-of-the-pants leaders chase every opportunity that might increase sales. Like chickens running around with their heads chopped off, these busy, misdirected leaders either don’t understand strategy, believe strategy is a deterrent to opportunity, or have never experienced the strategic disciplines of a prudent mentor.
Truth is, they have never realized nor enjoyed the sales and profit rewards that come from walking away from non-strategic ventures in the name of maintaining the integrity of focus. Strategy is critical to clarity. Without it, the complexity virus infects every nook and cranny of the organization. Left unchecked, that virus will stifle, stagnate, and bring a company to its knees.
The Best Strategies Require Sacrifice
Giving up something of value for the sake of other considerations is the essence of strategic sacrifice. Strategies that emerge from consciously passing on certain markets, products, and brand benefits improves performance because they tell you what not to do. Coca-Cola, unlike PepsiCo, steers clear of anything that isn’t a non-alcoholic beverage. The reward for this strategic stubbornness is profits and market capitalization that greatly exceed Coke’s much larger competitor who market food under the Frito Lay and Quaker Oats portfolios.
Once stubborn strategists carve out their course of action, the wisest of the owls stick to it like crazy glue. They don’t seek out the infinite, untapped opportunities at the top of Mount Elsewhere. They want to know how to best trek Mount Here, the vista everyone on the team agreed to climb in the first place. Why? Because, at the top of Mount Here is the pot of gold.