It’s that time of year again. Not the holiday season — but annual planning for the upcoming business year. In this “new normal” that we find ourselves navigating, executives across industries are grappling where/how they will find growth in 2011 and beyond. In a recent issue of Strategy Magazine, a survey of top executives suggested that businesses need only think about a couple of important choices that drive the products and services they will deliver to the market.
The first relates to differentiation — that is, how will the company differentiate itself such that it can avoid a pricing free fall? A differentiated strategic position is critical (remember the “point of differentiation” contained in a typical brand positioning statement?) The authors note that “….few [companies] are likely to find true market advantage through waste elimination, delivering benchmarked standards or best practice or even enhanced customer satisfaction. Real advantage will come from performing different activities to their rivals or performing similar activities in different ways — strategic differentiation.”
The second relates to strategy implementation — that is, businesses must be able to identify, prioritize, and implement the initiatives required to deliver their strategic approach. Initiative overload was identified by survey respondents as a primary cause of unsatisfactory strategy implementation. My firm uses the phrase “less is more” with clients to emphasize the need to execute fewer initiatives, but execute with excellence.
With fewer resources available than in previous years, every strategic choice eliminates a different choice competing for the same resources. Your ability to translate a differentiation vision into action and exit from the economic “funk” will be largely dependent upon your ability to execute.