Strategy is not a silver bullet. It is not that thing that you find and can use forever without ever changing it. It is not a mathematical solution where there can only be one answer. The context is always shifting, meaning that what led you to success yesterday, may not lead you to success today.
Thinking to the future with a pulse on today’s markets
Remaining responsive to mercurial markets and the tantalising speed of technological change requires companies to stay open, alert and to search what might matter next. Success comes from exploiting what works over time. Good strategy is a hybrid of both. It is about searching for problems that need to be solved, exploring possible solutions, and implementation after thorough investigation.
For it to work in the long-term, it needs to be constantly challenged in the short-term, and this requires agility, know-how and resilience. Think of it as a continuum – too far down the long-term, fixed view is problematic, as you won’t keep pace with the rate of change, as is a business plan that is too reactive, constantly shifting focus to whatever is new and exciting. Too much focus either way opens the door to competitors who are able to combine both and deliver the value your customers want and need by understanding what they will want tomorrow as well as fulfilling what they say they want today.
Strategies for tomorrow vs actions for today
A long-term view of where you are heading, an openness to change, and an understanding that this change may alter that long-term goal at some point, and that you need to be constantly examining, questioning and exploring to determine at what point that needs to happen – that is a business strategy.
Consider the Mercedes Formula 1 team. As multiple world champions, with two top tier drivers on their books, they need to keep making strides in the here and now to stay in front of their competitors and to take home the silverware at the end of the season. But they also have to have an eye on the future, on what is coming next. They are already recruiting and investing in artificial intelligence and machine learning, preparing for where they believe they will need to be in three or four years’ time and building the new capabilities now that they will need in the future.
So what's the verdict?
Many people talk about strategy as if it is a recipe that doesn’t change but, in reality, businesses must constantly reappraise what they are doing and adapt as they go to keep their strategy relevant in the context of a changing environment. A solid business growth strategy has innovation at its heart, and a clear set of priorities around where and how to compete as the ‘head’ to guide that heart.