When it comes to understanding the art of strategy, there’s a lot we can learn from military warfare. Indeed, one of the most-read books on my bookshelf is the military classic, The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.
Interestingly, The Art of War is part of the literary collection the US army keeps and “during the Persian Gulf war in the 1990s, both General Norman Schwarzkopf. Jr and General Colin Powell practiced Sun Tzu’s principles of deception, speed, and attacking the enemy’s weakness.” (source: Wikipedia).
It obviously helped because the Allied force’s Operation Desert Storm rates as one of the most successful military campaigns ever. It was quick, effective and extremely one-sided – and thanks to 24-hour on-the-spot news coverage courtesy of CNN, those of us old enough in 1990/1991 got to see the whole thing unfold on our tv screens.
One other field which highlights the importance of strategy is high-profile sport. Professional sports such as football, rugby, basketball and baseball showcase strategy when teams play each other, and we see first-hand how a game plan unfolds on the field. Coaches of elite sports teams invest years developing their craft, and in improving and perfecting their strategy skills.
Bottom line? Strategy is crucial to success in warfare and sport.
“The company without a strategy is willing to try anything. If all you’re trying to do is essentially the same thing as your rivals, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be very successful.”
– Professor Michael Porter. Harvard Business School.
As pointed out by Michael Porter, the world’s top strategy academic, strategy is also crucial to success in business. And, as a business leader you need to apply principles of deception, speed, attacking the enemy’s weakness to your business. Therefore, you need to do what successful military leaders do – engage in serious strategic thinking and planning.
Let me introduce you to a powerful, yet time-effective way for you to craft winning strategies and create brilliant tactics for your business. It’s called the Strategic War Room.
The War Room is an intensive Strategic Review in which you and your team come together to engage in serious strategic thinking and planning. It is also an avenue to help you to develop dynamic and actionable strategies, tactics and plans for your business.
Essentially, the War Room is a strategy workshop combined with group strategic facilitation and brainstorming.There is a strong learning element in the review as you learn the essential elements of strategic thinking and planning. However the key component is where all participants engage in serious analysis, brainstorming and strategic and tactical ideation.
A warning. The War Room is not like one of those “strategic retreats” some business executives attend, which are more like social gatherings as opposed to serious strategy sessions. The War Room is hard work…is mentally and creatively demanding, and so requires focus and commitment from those who participate.
The process followed is flexible, while still following a clear pathway. This allows you to focus on those issues that are strategically important to your future success and development.
Just as in military planning, the first phase in the War Room is getting an accurate assessment of internal and environmental conditions, and in knowing exactly what your current position is. This means gaining an intimate understanding of your business, industry, competitors and the marketplace generally. With the War Room we take both a helicopter (top down) and microscopic (inside out) look at your business and review areas such as:
- Strategic positioning
- Product/service mix
- Brand reputation
- Channel strategy
- Leadership and management
- Back end revenue generation
- Margins and pricing
- Revenue stream model
- Target markets and/or end users
- Sales processes
- Branding strategy and brand portfolio
- Internal structures and processes
- Skill base/core competencies
- Personal goals, desires and ambitions
- Brand awareness campaigns
- Sales force effectiveness
On the execution front we analyze the performance of your key business growth systems. In other words, we take an in-depth look at these systems and tactics to determine how well you:
- Generate brand awareness (Branding and advertising effectiveness)
- Convert brand awareness into sales leads (Opt-in rate)
- Convert leads into customers (Sales conversion process)
- Service and retain customers
- Sell more frequently to existing customers
- Sell higher unit sales values to existing customers
- Optimize gross margins and utilize fixed costs
In reviewing financial performance the War Room can go deeper than analyzing traditional metrics such as revenue growth, cashflow, COGS and EBITD. We can also look at factors such as where the revenue has derived from, cost per lead, cost per acquisition, retention rate and other little known yet highly critical financial indicators. This is important analytical information that even many financial analysts don’t know about.
Next, the data from this analysis is used to answer some very important questions such as:
- Do we need to amend our business strategy? If so, what changes do we need to make?
- What competitive threats and risks should we prepare for and how?
- How do we improve the quality of our brand building efforts?
- How do we ensure our products/services remain attractive to current and future customers?
- How do we extract higher margins?
- Is our organizational structure appropriate for future growth?
- What intellectual capital/skilled talent do we need to move us forward?
- Why is our marketing not working as well as it should be?
- How do we increase sales and profitability?
Once your current situation is fully analyzed and reviewed we then go through the process of generating ideas. For your own business these may involve minor strategic tweaking, or they could be far more comprehensive. Recommendations and ideas may include:
- Business or product development/re-positioning
- Adjusting your product portfolio
- Changing target markets
- Altering sales model and systems
- Changing pricing structure
- Amending business structure or systems
- Implementing different marketing campaigns and approaches
- Franchise/license/channel development
Depending on the level of service you require, the War Room provides up to 12 months follow up and support. This will allow you to tap my brains on an as-needed basis for ongoing strategic support and guidance.
Another reason why this ongoing support is vital is because marketplace conditions change rapidly, which is why your strategy should be flexible and adaptable to change. So, with the ongoing support provided by the War Room you get the help you need to deal with changing marketplace conditions.
Additional Benefits of the War Room
As a service the War Room also offers these unique benefits that are part and parcel of my overall strategy service offerings. These are:
- Driven by Creativity and Intuition
- Strategy Visuals
- Simplified and focused process
1. Driven by Creativity and Intuition
At its core, strategic and tactical planning is all about creating, developing and refining valuable ideas. But where do great ideas come from? As alluded to by Albert Einstein, they’re primarily produced from creativity and intuition. And my philosophy is that any strategic thinking and planning initiative needs to be led by creativity and intuition, and supported by intellect.
Now, this philosophy may fly in the face of conventional business wisdom with its emphasis on skills like finance, accounting and the need to do things sequentially and orderly. But it’s the reality my friend. Ideas drive your business.
Interestingly, strategic thinking is a skill that primarily takes place in a particular part of the brain. It’s called the strategic brain. In fact, one of the leading researchers in this area, Dr. Kathryn Benziger, has found that strategic thinking specifically takes place in the brain’s right frontal area.
And the good news for you? The War Room uses the strategic brain. So you get a wealth of ideas. Just as importantly however, these ideas will be supported by high quality analysis and intellect. I call them intelligent ideas.
2. Design thinking and visual strategic planning
The very essence of the War Room is the application of visual strategic planning principles and tools, which merge creativity with intellect. You won’t find these tools anywhere else, so let me introduce them to you.
Design and visual thinking uses visual tools such as sketches, matrices, drawings, charts, infographics and prototypes to analyse and formulate strategies and plans – thereby more effectively engaging the brain’s right hemisphere. This is in contrast to the left-brain spreadsheet, numbers and sequential type planning that is more commonly used in business.
The concept of visual thinking has evolved over the last 20 years and has really come of age since the mid 2000s. Large companies that utilize visual planning include Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Google and Coca Cola. Even some major universities – such as Harvard and Yale – now teach visual thinking to their business students. Why? Take a look at these benefits:
- Analysis is much more creative and insightful. Because you’re using visual tools to analyse you can better see the forest from the trees.
- Your strategies and ideas are more innovative. My visual tools will help you to identify and create the right strategies you need to compete.
- Resulting plans are more concise and easier to read – with a completed plan that highlights your strategy and key actions on a single A3 or A2 page. And the best part is, they can be better understood by everyone in the organization – from CEO to the cleaner.
- Perfect for owners of small to mid-sized firms. If you’re the owner of a smaller firm – say with fewer than 50 employees – forget the traditional, complex planning approaches taught in business schools and books for large corporates. My approach is far simpler…and it is perfect for the little guys.
Visual thinking technology used in many domains – from the military to top sports teams
Actually, the concept of visual thinking is not new, and has been used in a number of domains for many years, from the military through to sport. Here is an example from World War II.
And this example is of a rugby “play” that teams I’ve coached have learned and used.
In both these examples, a visual process has been used to lay out the plan for beating the opponent. Further, because the plans are visually focused, they are easier to read and understand.
My take home message to you? You must take a visual thinking approach to strategic thinking and planning.
One Pager Plans
Another valuable strategic planning tool I’ve developed is One Pagers. These are one page strategic plans that visually outline your strategy and key actions on a single page. This enables you and your key team members to quickly and easily understand your strategy, implement its key actions and keep track of your progress.
As you’ve probably learned through experience, few people take the time to read strategic plans. Reading One Pagers though is a breeze. They’re a fast, easy way for everyone in your business to understand what your business is all about, and what steps need to be taken to move the business forward.
3. The Process
With the War Room we follow the process outlined in the Strategic Growth Blueprint, shown here:
The process followed is comprehensive, without being too analytical or bogged down in detail. That way minds remain relatively clear, which then allows more creative solutions to be developed.
When it comes to understanding the significance of strategic and tactical planning, Sun Tzu had this to say:
“Therefore the skillful commander takes up a position in which he cannot be defeated and misses no opportunity to master his enemy”
(From The Art of War)
Effective business strategic and tactical planning allows you to take up a business position in which you cannot be beaten, and in which you master your competitors and marketplace conditions generally.
As a business owner, you cannot under-estimate the importance of strategic thinking. Fact is, all successful leaders – in business, sport and the military – engage in high-level strategic thinking and planning. You can too with the help of the War Room.
So, if you want to master your marketplace and competitors, then enquire about the War Room for your business. For more information please call 0064 9 534 9417.