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Don’t be clueless about strategy

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Today’s guest post is from John Roulet, author of “The Supervision Solution.”  Learn more about his work at

What is strategy and how is it done? Wouldn’t it be great to answer those questions accurately and without hesitation?

Our uncertainty about strategy isn’t surprising. Rarely do those responsible for strategy even bother to define the concept for their organizations, largely because they can’t. Strategy doesn’t have to be so unknowable and confusing. We are born strategists — evolution requires it. So let’s get back to basics and rediscover the knowledge buried inside each of us.

Strategy is the competitive thinking and action required to achieve a desired position or status. Strategy requires that we translate our desired position or status into a goal and then solve the mystery as how that goal will be achieved. Of course, to solve a mystery we need to work the CLUES:

  • Competitors. Those who try to prevent us from reaching our goal.
  • Landscape. The environment where competition occurs (regulations, demographics, etc.)
  • Us. In business, this is our organization (its strengths, weaknesses, values, etc.)
  • Enthusiasts. Those who can help us achieve our goal (friends, suppliers, etc.)
  • Shoppers. Those who buy what we have to offer.

Wal-Mart is masterful at working the CLUES. They capitalize on their strengths and enlist enthusiasts (e.g., suppliers) to provide what their shoppers value (“save money — live better”). They have transformed the retail landscape to their advantage and dominated virtually all competitors.

Unlike Wal-Mart, weak competitors make little effort to systematically collect, analyze and act upon the CLUES. When it comes to strategy they are literally clueless. Their actions lack competitive insight and spirit. The first step to resolving this organizational deficit is to identify the relevant CLUES. This is followed by collecting, analyzing and acting upon the CLUES. Competition requires doing this regularly, not just at the semi-annual strategic planning meeting.

Image credit, ThomasTroy, via iStock