For Better Strategies - Ask Why?

There is a process for developing a successful Marketing Strategy. The steps outlined below describe that process:
I.               State the Mission  - This is a description of the purpose of the quest. For example Coca Cola’s Mission is to: refresh the world, inspire optimism, to create value and make a difference.
II.             State the Vision - This is a description of how value is created for all who participate in the quest or a business. For businesses, the Vision describes how value will be created for the customers, the collaborators and the company.
III.           State the Objective – This is a description of the desired outcome of the strategy. The objective must have a quantifiable and a timing element.  An example would be “to increase sales 5% in 6 months”.
IV.            Situation Analysis – This is a process to understand the current environment in which the strategy must be deployed. The situation analysis should consider: the competition, the state of the economy, the strengths and weaknesses of the group setting the objective, the opportunities and threats that would affect the successful deployment of the strategy and so on.
V.              Strategy – This is the process of formally stating how the objective will be achieved in broad terms after considering the Mission, Vision, Objective and Situation Analysis.  For businesses, a strategy describes what Price, Place, Product and Promotion strategies will be employed. For example a retailer might decide the best way to achieve an objective of sales growth might be to use Every Day Low Prices coupled with Just in Time inventory strategies. (For Strategy, tactics and execution See )
VI.            Tactics – This is the process of defining specific actions that will be used to deploy the strategy(ies) chosen to meet the Objective. This usually involves creating procedures on how the organization will develop a plan, organize its resources, direct the deployment of those resources and control the deployment to assure success.
VII.          Execution – This is the process that describes in detail how the tactics will be executed and controlled. The leaders of an organization will need to know how they will utilize human resources, cash, policies and capital expenditures in a manner that fits with the organizations wherewithal, the markets needs and achieves the Objective.

This is a pretty straightforward approach but I find that CEOs, Marketing Officers, General Managers and undergraduate and MBA students struggle at times and seem to want someone to tell them what they should do to move forward through this process. As it turns out, there is no one that has the answer to the final solution of strategy development. Again there are ways to jump start the strategy planning process.

I have found that asking the question “why?” is very helpful. It doesn’t matter what stage of the strategic process difficulty is encountered, asking “why?” can get the process back on track.  Even asking “Why am I not able to make progress on developing a strategy?” will provide some answers if the question is answered thoughtfully.  For example the answer to lack of progress in developing a strategy might be a lack of useful information. This should lead to identifying the type of information that is needed. This would then lead to identifying specific information needed and perhaps a plan for acquiring this information,

At the beginning of the strategic process and at every step throughout the process the questions of  “Why?”  and "Why not?" can help the strategic planner. 
Examples of how the question “Why?” and "Why not?" might be used include:
I.               Mission – Why was this mission chosen? This might lead to follow up questions: Is this a mission that can be achieved?  And What does completing this mission accomplish? Equally important is asking "Why not pursue this mission?"
II.             Vision – Why does completing the mission create value? For Whom? How? Why Not?
III.           Objective – Why is it important to achieve this objective? What is driving the timing? Are the time frame and the quantitative element of the objective realistically achievable? Why? Why not?
IV.             Situation Analysis – Why are the competitors successful? Why does demand exist in this environment? Why would demand exist in a different economic environment?  Why does the organization have its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
V.              Strategy – Why will this mix of Price, Place, Product and Promotion be better than another mix? Why not?
VI.            Tactics – Why will this plan of specific actions, organizational design, directives and control procedures result in successful attainment of the objective? Why not?
VII.          Execution – Why will this planned use of resources result in deploying the strategy successfully? Why is this plan superior to alternative plans? Why not?

Even after the execution process has begun, asking “Why?”  can help keep the execution of the strategic plan on track. Asking why a plan is working can be as valuable as asking why a plan isn’t working.


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