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We All Need A Strategy

Cai Yuqian
Cai Yuqian

February 17, 2020

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

What is Strategy?

We hear the word “strategy” all the time. It appears frequently in media articles, blog posts and corporate annual reports. Although it seems that people are constantly talking about strategy, its essence and definition often get blurred and even downgraded. So let’s make it clear first: strategies are not short-term goals, schemes or tactics. It’s not a quick fix solution or methodology to a particular, specific problem or issue. If you are a retailer and set yourself an annual strategy that says “increasing sales by 20% by the end of this year”, we are sorry to inform you that it’s a goal, but not a strategy, and you may need to think a lot deeper.

A strategy is about the big picture, seeing far ahead, while considering the present and what you have on hand, and trying to explore a path to connect them. To be precise, it is a deliberate search for a plan of action to get to a favourable position with optimal resource utilisation. To put in simple words: it’s to figure out how to deploy resources so that I can get to where I want to be from where I am now:

  • Where I am now: a thorough analysis of your current situation
  • Where I want to be: a long-term vision
  • How to deploy resources: strategic thinking and planning
a telescope
The big picture is critical. Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

Why is Strategy Important?

The message is clear: we all need a strategy.

As a business, it’s obvious how strategies can help to build its own moat and unique differentiation.

For example, the company Alphabet has been shifting its business focus onto AI because it anticipated that Google’s search and pure advertising business will not sustain long in the future. In order to take a stronghold in the AI industry, its portfolio of companies spans from autonomous vehicles company Waymo to AI intelligence research company DeepMind.

Another example is Airbnb’s expansion of its business model from providing room-sharing to offering travel experiences package, and they are both powered by its central platform that connects the travel community worldwide. “Belong anywhere”, anyone?

As an individual, a strategy is a catalyst for self-development and self-improvement.

The difference between having only short-term goals of “losing 2kg this year” and a long-term strategy of balanced diets, exercises and physical and mental wellbeing is clear. It explains why some people are working day and night but still feel like their life is a mess (we have some useful tips to help you with sticking to your goals and this year’s New Year Resolution as well).

 a person writing goals on a notebook on a coffee table
Concrete goals are important when setting up a strategy. Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

How To Set up a Strategy For Your Business or Yourself?

So, how to set up a strategy? Let’s take a business as an example.

Step 1: Figure out where the business wants to be in the future: mission and vision (we have a great article explaining the importance of mission and vision, as well as how to create one here).

Step 2: Analyse where the business is right now through an internal and external analysis.

Internal analysis:

  • What is the current business model?
  • Is there a sustainable competitive advantage?
  • Does the company have its core competency?

External analysis:

  • What are some macro trends the business should pay close attention to?
  • How are the competitors doing?
  • Are there any opportunities and threats?

Step 3: Ask: is there anything that is stopping/getting us there?

  • Identify and prioritise the issues: use the MECE (mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive) principle to make sure everything is covered.

Step 4: Formulate a strategy for the business: how to get there?

  • Break it down to smaller stages, with closer stages having more concrete action plans.
  • We recommend OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) as a practical tool to help you set and measure metrics.

In ancient times, soldiers did not fight blindly in wars. They followed instructions, which are part of a much broader strategy with a big picture in the commander’s mind. In today’s world, the rule still applies. Every one of us needs a strategy in order to sail successfully in the huge ocean of uncertainty. And sometimes the difference just lies in a well-thought strategy and pieces of scattered short-term thinking.

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