One of the bedrocks of leadership is strategy.
Companies like Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and many others became super successful because of the size of their ambition and their strategy for how to achieve it, not because of the size of their assets or immediate resources.
Yet I have found in coaching executives that strategy is a big problem for most business leaders. In big companies, strategy is often delegated to a specialist, or VP with little power, or it becomes a bureaucratic exercise that confuses strategy to change the game with strategy for operational excellence.
For small companies, like a doctor’s group practice, a Mexican restaurant chain or small Leather Furniture manufacturer, strategy is often done in people’s heads and is looked at as a problem solved and settled a long time ago.
Also, the thinking around strategy tends to be insufficient, often confused with beating the competition at their own game rather than creating a company that does something new and different that truly matters. Think Minute Clinic, Think Chippotle, Think Ikea. Then there is the whole issue of execution.
A CEO who sits on several outside boards recently confided to me that, while there are tons of great books on strategy, “I don’t think any of them has had much impact on the way companies do strategy.” While most managers can reel off the latest buzz words about strategy-red ocean vs. blue ocean-seldom does it actually shape their strategic thinking or get reflected in a real strategic plan on paper.
If you want to teach people to think strategically, don’t teach them how to think. Instead give them a tool.
In thinking about a coaching session I was going to have with the CEO on strategy, I was reminded of something R. Buckminster Fuller said, “If you want to teach people to think differently, don’t tell them how to think, instead give them a tool.”
As an executive coach, my job is to provide whats missing that would make a difference. This led me to start thinking about a tool called a One Page Strategic Plan that would help leaders think about strategy in its completeness, without giving people a headache.
I created a simple-to-use tool any CEO or entrepreneur can use, and easy to use method that translates across the world to businesses of all shapes and sizes. The One Page Strategic Plan includes all of the pieces of the strategy puzzle, especially those that are often perilously forgotten or ignored.
The OPSP will help you think about your “Winning Aspiration” and existential purpose, bridging the external environment and internal organization, a competitive strategy for optimizing the core business and its profitability, along with a strategy for seizing the white space and doing something more than core to drive exponential growth. When you get done with the plan, you should have a focused set of priorities and be ready to jump into action.
I sent the first draft of the One Page Strategic Plan to the CEO a week before our meeting. He called and thanked me for sending it and then engaged me in an hour long conversation about his whole strategy. I was actually very impressed with the 10X future he described for his company, and how strategic his game plan was, which was defined by into 2 or 3 brilliant initiatives.
I have tried to keep The One Page Strategic Plan as compact as possible, so it would apply to companies of all shapes and sizes. It can be used to guide top team sessions where you come up with a growth strategy, VC pitches, board presentations, as well as to help align and mobilize people across an enterprise.
So here goes.
The future belongs to those who see exciting new possibilities before they become obvious.
ONE PAGE STRATEGIC PLAN
Warm-up Exercises (Good for time compressed brainstorming)
What are the external trends that will impact your industry?
Inside strengths? Weaknesses? Underutilized assets? Hidden opportunities? Biggest strategic opportunity? Think back from a $billion whats the blueprint to get there?
Creating the One Page Strategic Plan
[If used at a strategy session with your team, it’s important to distribute the template only, don’t fill in any blanks.]
1) STRATEGY STARTS WITH PURPOSE. Does your company have an ennobling purpose that represents making a difference that matters for customers? Ikea, Southwest Airline, Airbnb. Write your company’s purpose that is based on what you do that truly matters and for whom.
2) STRATEGY IS ABOUT REALIZING A WINNING ASPIRATION, 10X FUTURE. What is your 10X Future, Winning Aspiration or End Game? BHAG goals for 1 to 3 years?
3) STRATEGY IS HOW TO GET TO 10X FUTURE. Strategy is about HOW, period. It doesn’t matter whether you are a startup CEO who has to run the businesses in its completeness, or VP of Operations.
A.)What is your strategy for how to get to your 10X future for Optimizing and Maximizing your core business?
B) What is your strategy for doing something more than core? Seizing the white space and creating a new monopoly business in a small niche, something that disrupts the competition.
4) STRATEGY IS PICKING THE RIGHT PRIORITIES. Look at your 10X Future, BHAGS, your goals for the year and gain insight into the biggest challenges or choke points.
Create one goal for the year. Pick four priorities, one for each quarter. Include a KPI or metric for each. Who is accountable for each priority, performance goals, completion date?
ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS FOR STARTUPS OR PRODUCT DIVISIONS:
- Where are you going to play? What is a small, new monopoly niche? Specific market segment or customers?
- How are you going to win? Breakthrough customer value proposition?
- Organization needed to win? Talent, resources, and processes?
- Business model? Lays out how will you combine Breakthrough value proposition, resources, and processes to go to market and turn a profit.
If you are interested in getting a copy of this template, message me and I will send you a copy.
My favorite books on strategy are: The Strategist by Cynthia Montgomery and Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley, Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt, Scaling Up by Verne Harnish, who first coined the idea of a One Page Strategic Plan as it applied to small business.