In Lewis Carroll’s classic book, Through the Looking Glass, the Red Queen prophetically informs Alice, “You must run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place. If you want to get ahead, you must run at least twice as fast.” Today, however, even running as fast as you can will not necessarily allow you to stay in the same place. To cope with and prevail in the challenges of life today, you need an effective strategy. You need either to do what you did before—very, very well—or to do something differently.
The concept of strategy has its roots in the military-diplomatic strategies of earlier eras, when leaders sought to establish and maintain dominance over a region. Most early writing on strategy is about crafting and executing military strategies.
Strategy today, however, has evolved to mean much more than military strategy. To the person on the street, strategy may mean ways to succeed: tips, tricks and techniques for getting ahead, formulas and shortcuts, good ideas, common sense, the application of logic, or doing whatever people who are successful actually do. In this sense, strategy can be viewed as applied best practice, involving what is described in the Harvard Business School curriculum as “currently useful generalizations.”
Everyone has strategies. People have strategies for their different roles in life. In fact, if you think about it, you’ll recognize that even your pet, if you have one, has strategies. A pet has strategies to do certain things to get what it wants—be it food, attention, interaction, or a walk.
Just as individuals have strategies, so also do companies. The WalMart strategy has been described as, very simply, a great choice of merchandise and low prices. The Tiffany strategy, by contrast, is the highest quality merchandise and the best designs. WalMart does not expect to provide its customers much service, whereas Tiffany provides considerable service. Each has a distinctive and very different strategy. Each strategy is successful.
Strategy can mean different things to different people. Some think strategy refers to only the highest level decisions, concerning which, when and what. For others, strategy is much more about how to. Some differentiate strategy from tactics, with tactics being shorter-term, smaller-scale actions, while strategy is concerned with the longer term and the larger scale. Some of the mistakes in 421 Strategy Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Them could be considered tactics by some.
No matter what strategy means to you, or how others define strategy, a universal truth—unarguable and indisputable—is that every individual and every organization—be it a business or government agency or non-governmental organization—at some time or another, makes strategy mistakes. Not all companies achieve the leadership that WalMart and Tiffany have. Many companies make mistakes in choosing and implementing their strategies.
In any important sporting event, the outcome is more often determined by mistakes than brilliant plays. The team that makes the fewest mistakes often wins the game. Similarly, the company that makes the fewest mistakes often achieves higher profits than companies that makes many mistakes. Strategy mistakes can be the difference between success and failure. Strategy mistakes can take what could otherwise be a marvelous outcome and cause it to be unrewarding, disappointing or even a major failure.
421 Strategy Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Them is intended to help you learn from those who have already made mistakes, so that you do not have to learn by repeating those same mistakes. Those who have less background in strategy will encounter insights, perspectives and strategies that would take much study and decades of experience to gain. Some strategists will likely find this book to be a useful refresher of proven success strategies.
Given the breadth and scope of the strategy discipline, the mistakes selected for inclusion should be thought of as a representative rather than comprehensive collection—a sampling rather than a complete full-course meal. Many of the mistakes that apply to organizational behavior are directly applicable to individual behavior, and vice versa. For some readers, many of the mistakes listed here will be familiar. You may find yourself nodding in recognition, remembering the time you saw very similar mistakes being committed. Hopefully, they did not cost you, your company, or your investments too
The style of presentation in this book is succinct and to the point. By way of gender terminology, he and she are interchangeable, and there is no presumption that men or women are more or less inclined to make any one mistake. Although the presentation that follows is organized into general categories, there is no particular ordering of mistakes within these categories. Rather, the presentation is designed to accommodate whatever sequence or even random order that the reader may choose.
421 Strategy Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Them aims to help you achieve your business, investing, and personal objectives. Avoiding the strategy mistakes that follow by no means guarantees that you will have outstanding outcomes or results. But if you avoid at least the majority of the mistakes that follow, you’ll have a much better chance of achieving outstanding results than if you fall prey to some or many of these mistakes.
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