Strategy has been studied and defined by business leaders for years and years, Yet there is no definitive answer about what strategy really is. We are going to explore the definition of strategy, diverse thoughts and different levels of strategy.
Having a clear and focused strategy is critically important to the success of a business, as strategy aligns the mission and vision with operations.
Strategy is different from vision, mission, goals, and plans. It is the result of choices leadership make regarding where to play and how to win, to maximize long-term value.
“Where to play” specifies the target market in terms of the customers and the needs to be served i.e.
where the target customers are (for example, in certain parts of the world or in particular parts of town),
how they buy (perhaps through specific channels),
who they are (their particular demographics and other innate characteristics),
when they buy (for example, on particular occasions),
what they buy (for instance, are they price buyers or service hounds?),
and for whom they buy (themselves, friends, family, their company, or their customers?).
“How to win” specifies the unique value proposition that will distinguish a business / organization in the eye of target market. The unique approach or ways to deliver the value proposition to the target customer (with their insight) to serve them ensure the business to win the market over competition.
Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes, authors of “Exploring Corporate Strategy,” say that strategy determines the direction and scope of an organization over the long term, and they say that it should determine how resources should be configured to meet the needs of markets and stakeholders.
Michael Porter, a strategy expert and professor at Harvard Business School, emphasizes the need for strategy to define and communicate an organization’s unique position, and says that it should determine how organizational resources, skills, and competencies should be combined to create competitive advantage.
“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it is about deliberately choosing to be different” – Michael Porter
Strategy at Different Levels of a Business
There are multiple levels of a business ranging from corporate, business unit to execution team. And strategy is defined for each level – corporate, business unit and team.
Corporate Strategy – is concerned with the overall purpose and scope of the business to meet stakeholder expectations. An organization consists of multiple business units, operating in different markets. Corporate strategy determines how the corporation as a whole supports and enhances the value of the business units within it; and it answers the question, “How do we structure the overall business, so that all of its parts create more value together than they would individually?”
At this level of strategy, leadership is concerned with thinking about how the business units within the corporation should fit together, and understanding how resources should be deployed to create the greatest possible value.
Business Unit Strategy – is concerned more with how a business competes successfully in a particular market, and it addresses the question, “How do we win in this market?” It concerns strategic decisions about choice of products, meeting needs of customers, gaining advantage over competitors, exploiting or creating new opportunities etc.
However, this strategy needs to be linked to the objectives identified in the corporate level strategy.
Team / Operational Strategy – is concerned with how each part of the business or how teams throughout the organization work together. Each of these teams has a different contribution to make, meaning that each team needs to have its own team-level strategy, however simple.
This team strategy must lead directly to the achievement of business unit and corporate strategies, meaning that all levels of strategy support and enhance each other to ensure that the organization is successful.
“Manage the top line; your strategy, your people and your products, and the bottom line will follow” – Steve Jobs