Focus on Your Strategy Not Your Tools or Models

A piece of advice I was recently given was that I shouldn’t worry about strategy tools and models (e.g. strategy maps, five forces, balanced score cards etc.) but instead should just get on and “do” the strategy. The advice comes down to: don’t focus on the method for coming up with and describing your strategy – focus on what you need to do and how you are going to do it. My initial response was “this is good advice when you are doing strategy, but not so good when you are wanting to use or model existing strategy” (for instance when doing enterprise architecture). On further reflection, I think I was mistaken.

Certainly, when you are coming up with a strategy for a business or organisation, this is great advice. Focus on figuring out where your organisation needs to get to and how it will get there. Focus on creating a good strategy. Focus on what your business needs to do to survive and thrive, to differentiate itself, to be profitable, to deliver on its commitments. The tools and models are just a distraction – and there are already enough distractions when working on strategy.

If what you are trying to do is connect an existing corporate strategy to other parts of the business – to operationalise it, or to connect it to IT activity (whether that is development, implementation or operations) then models do play a different role. They can have some value. The focus, however, must still be on what the strategy is – forget the model, first and foremost you must understand and be able to articulate what the strategy is and connect it to your area of concern. Once you have done that, tools such as strategy maps may be useful to communicate the strategy and visualise the connections it has to the different parts of the business. But these tools and models must remain very much secondary to those key concerns of knowing what your strategy is, being able to articulate it and being able to connect it to the area of business activity you are concerned with.

So if you are looking at busienss strategy from either viewpoint – trying to come up with one, or trying to apply an existing one – forget strategy tools and models – just do it!

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