We have spent years analyzing strategy from the innovator’s perspective and we always ask our partner companies, “What is strategy?” No one ever has a good, actionable answer. And no one is using their copy of Michael Porter’s classic Competitive Strategy to launch great products.
Cynthia Montgomery from the Harvard Business School is asking the same question and she thinks, as we do, that “Strategy has become more about formulation than implementation.”
The HBS site writes, “Montgomery explains that leading strategy requires confronting four questions: What does my organization bring to the world? Does that difference matter? Is something about it scarce and difficult to imitate? Are we doing today what we need to do in order to matter tomorrow?”
Montgomery thinks that “being a strategist means living these questions.”
Ok, how do you do it? How do you “live” these questions?
Most importantly, how do you do it in a systematic, repeatable way that will accelerate your growth?
This isn’t easy to do because traditional definitions of markets, customers and needs are flawed. So if you start with the definition of a market as a product, a customer as a buyer, and needs as latent, it is almost impossible to formulate a strategy that can be implemented.
For example, if your company is a CD manufacturer and you define the market as CDs, it is very hard to answer the question “what does my organization bring to the world” beyond making CDs. You literally “bring CDs” to the world. Of course, you probably want to be a good corporate citizen, so you treat your employees well and make progress on being sustainable.But unless you understand that you are NOT in the CD market (because there is no such thing as a “CD” market), then any attempt to define a strategy you can execute will miss the mark. And you will likely be displaced by new innovations.
If, however, you define the market from the customer’s point of view based on the job they are trying to achieve, then you can focus your company on innovation that will help them get the job done better, for example, discovering new music. This is a job, specifically an outcome-driven job, where the needs, the outcomes, can be known.
Now it is much easier to say with confidence that “what you bring to the world” is the discovery of new music. And you can pursue a strategy of creating innovations based on getting that job done better be satisfying the underserved outcomes in the job.
The reason companies are not good at doing this is obvious. It would require a new definition of the market, and it would require investments in new platforms that will ultimate kill their existing platforms and profits.
This is not an easy decision to make. But ask Kodak, RIM, Britannica, and hundreds of other companies if they should have made this decision earlier. The answer is obvious when you can identify the outcome-driven job.