Thursday, March 17, 2011

Strategic Vision

imageThis article was written by Dick Hartl, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

If I were to draw a “picture” of the future look of my company, what would the picture look like? Another way to ask the same question could be “how does the look of my company translate itself into physical evidence”.

In other words if someone asked me to invest one hundred thousand dollars into his or her business on the basis that it “would be a good bet,” I would certainly ask myself:

Where is this company going??

What would it “look” like down the road?

The answers would help me determine, in advance, if it will be a good bet!

Therefore, I would start looking for physical indicators of this company’s direction and its eventual look. The things that would serve as physical indicators of the company’s strategy, direction, and eventual look include:

+ Its product/services catalogue (current and announced)

+ Its people

+ The markets it serves

+ Its Competitors

+ Its Customers

+ Its Suppliers

+ Its Market Segments

+ Its R & D or innovation

+ Its Facilities

In fact, there are numerous things I could look at for this company, or any other – each of which would serve me as an indicator of the direction and eventual “look” of that company. However from that long list, four items are the true reflection of a company’s strategy, direction, and eventual look:

+ The nature of its products/services

+ The nature of its customers

+ The nature of its market segments

+ The nature of its geographical markets

Everything else that goes on in an organization is either an input to these or an output from these four items. Capital, people, skills, facilities, and technology are all inputs. Sales and Profits are the outputs.

Thus, the most important questions the leaders must ask themselves are:

+ Which products/services do we offer? But more important, which products/services do we not offer?

+ To which customer groups do we offer these products/services? But more important, to which customer groups do we not offer these products/services?

+ Which market segments do we seek? But more important, which market segments do we not seek?

+ Which geographic areas do we pursue? But more important, which geographic areas do we not pursue?

The result of a sound strategic thinking process must, in my view, produce a very clear profile of the kinds of products/services, customers, market segments, and geographic areas that the strategy of the business lends itself to and that will thus receive emphasis, capital, people, skills, facilities, and technology in the future.

There is only one person in any organization who can “drive” the strategic thinking process and that is the CEO / owner of the organization. This is the most important activity that the CEO can do and doing it well will make a significant difference in the future of that business.