When it comes to understanding the concepts of strategy, tactics and execution, 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.
As a business executive 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 War Room Strategic Review.
The War Room is an intensive Strategic Review in which you and your team come together for 1-2 days 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
To ensure recommendations are followed through, the War Room also has a 12 month follow up and support program. 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. Strategy Visuals Tools
To help create the intelligent ideas you need, my services use some unique tools that merge creativity with intellect. You won’t find these tools anywhere else, so let me introduce them to you.
Analysis – in which I also include intelligence or information gathering – is crucial to strategic thinking and planning. But it’s important not to get too bogged down in the detail. Otherwise you run the risk of over-analyzing, which in turn will dampen your creative juices.
To help you analyze more creatively and avoid analysis paralysis, I’ve developed Strategy Visuals visual thinking tools. These tools include mind maps, grids and matrices, process visuals and other visual diagrams. Why are these tools important?
Neuroscience has shown that when visual tools like these are used as part of a planning and brainstorming process, the brain’s right hemisphere – that part of the brain that is more creatively oriented – is engaged more easily. As a result, creativity is enhanced, obstacles can be more clearly seen, these tools allow you to better see the forest from the trees, and ideas are generated more easily. Also, the ideas and strategies tend to be more innovative and creative.
With the Strategy Visuals you won’t get as caught up in paralysis by analysis and the process of strategy making and idea generation won’t be as frustrating. Most importantly, your left brain (the analytical side) and the right brain (the creative side) will work together better. Ultimately, Strategy Visuals means you get more good ideas, more often.
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.