Most strategy fails for want of execution. However, under that lack of execution there are two related root causes, lack of differentiation and lack of focus. If your strategy does not feel crazy brave, you have to question hard whether you have one at all.
No organisation starts in the same poisition as another. Capabilities, funding, customers and markets all differ. Yet, so much of our strategic conversation is about following best practices, copying competitors and trying to match historical success stories from wildly unrelated circumstances.
None of this works. What works is a differentiated strategy that takes advantage of your unique organisation and its strengths. The real lesson of all those strategic case studies is that successful organisations developed their own path and relentless executed against that even when everyone thought they were wrong.
If you are doing the commonly accepted thing in your industry to succeed, then you aren’t trying hard enough. Attackers need different strategies. Copying the leader is just ensuring you end in second place.
Too many strategies I see have the nub of something differentiated but then they hedge their bets. Instead of focus on what would make them unique, the organisation throws in what everyone else does just in case.
Every minute you aren’t executing against your unique strategic advantage you are losing. You are playing someone else’s game and that’s exactly what they want.
If the difference is between losing in 2 years trying your own strategy and losing in 4 years hedging your bets was it worthwhile? You have just taken longer to learn what does not work.
Differentiated and focused strategies work. They work because they are unique and clear enough to drive unusual levels of engagement in employees. They are unique and clear enough that people can decide what to do and what not to do. What not to do is as important to strategic success as what to do. Unique and clear strategies attract those employees who want to make a difference in the ways you want to make a difference. These things get lost in strategies that are all encompassing and me too.
The best differentiated and focused strategies are seen by others as likely to fail. If your industry thinks what you are doing is crazy brave, then it is a really good signal. Nobody will be copying your plans until it is too late. Most likely it means that others can’t see your advantages or understand how you can execute them to advantage. Often it means your measures of performance success aren’t on their radar deepening your competitive advantages.
If your strategy is risk free, then are you differentiated or focused enough to succeed? If you can’t see the risk, you will lack the energy and the decision making to consistently deliver execution that differentiates your performance.