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A Plan Is Not a Strategy

A Plan Is Not a Strategy

Harvard Business Review


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Strategy is a journey.



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What would have to be true about ourselves, about industry, about competition, about customers for this strategy to work?

Why do you do that? It's because you can then watch the world unfold.



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A strategy specifies an outcome you wish to achieve, like attracting customers to buy your product, enough of it to give you a profit.

But you don't control the customers. They decide, not you and that's a harder trick to allure them.

This is where you put yourself out and say what you belive will happen and wait for reality to kick in.


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  1. here's where we're choosing to play.
  2. here's how we're choosing to win.
  3. here the capabilities we need to have in place.
  4. here are the management systems.

And that's why it's going to achieve its goals, this aspiration that we have.

Then you lay out the logic, what must be true for that all to work out the way we hope.

Go do it, and watch and tweak as you go along.


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Most strategic planning has nothing to do with strategy.

Planning is old.

Strategy is new.

Strategy and planning is not the same.

People plan and do a lot of work but without a strategy they fail.


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How do I avoid the "planning trap"?

Startegy will have angst associated with it. It'll make you somewhat nervous.

You can't prove in advance that your strategy will succeed.

Accept the fact that you can't know for sure.

Lay out the logic of your strategy clearly.

Keep it short - ideally 1 page, do not complicate.


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So what is a strategy?

An integrative set of choices that position you on a playing field of your choice in a way that you win.

Strategy has a theory not a proof.

A strategic theory must be coherent and doable.

Planning has no coherence to it. Its a list of what departments want with no internal coherence and company goal as a collective.


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The tricky thing about planning is that while you're planning, chances are at least one competitor is figuring out how to win.



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Why do leaders so often focus on planning?

Plans are quite comforting, It's about the resources you are going to spend. It's on the cost side of businesses.

Who controls your cost? You control the cost, You are the customer! It's comfortable because you control them.


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And if something you say is in the logic that would have to be true for it to work is not working out quite the way you hoped.

Then tweak it, what you want is a mechanism of tweaking it, toning it, and refining it so it gets better and better as you go along.


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improve the process

I have been in the rut of planning after winning with strategy earlier, it takes real mental clarity, It's a wonderul resource. Thank you!

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