by Tom Peters
“Strategy” is essentially about “knowin’ where you’re goin.’” Not, mostly, a bad idea; though with today’s market gyra- tions—and market gyration velocity— that’s increasingly difficult to do, a chimera, a distraction even. For me, “knowin’ who you’re goin’ with” tops the list of imperatives in a world of whitewa- ter, and knowin’ that those you’re goin’ with share your passion and determina- tion—and the flexibility of mind to adjust and adjust and adjust on a dime. All of which is to say I’m not, and never have been, a champion of the management school of thought that says, or implies, “Get the strategy right [big word,“right”!], and the rest, as in all good things, will more or less automatically follow.” In fact I think such a view—admittedly not as prevalent today as it used to be, in the wake of everything from huge bankrupt- cies to 9/11—is total crap.
So what do you need to know about “strategy”? That was the question I was asked recently by a rather contentious, die-hard academic strategy buff. ( These ideas tend to die hardest in academic settings—where the stakes are so low.) My answer, in brief, follows:*
Recap: All You Need to Know About Strategy
- Do you have awesome Talent … everywhere? (“We are the Yankees of home improvement here in Omaha.”) Do you push that Talent to pursue Audacious Quests?
- Is your Talent Pool loaded with wonderfully peculiar people whom others would call “problems”? And what about your Extended Community of customers, vendors, et al.?
- Is your Board of Directors as cool as your product offerings … and does it have 50 percent (or at least one-third) Women Members?
- Long-term, it’s a “Top-line World”: Is creating a “culture” that cherishes above all things Innovation and Entrepreneurship your primary aim? Remember: Innovation … not Imitation!
- Are the Ultimate Rewards heaped upon those who exhibit an unswerving “Bias for Action,” to quote the co-authors of In Search of Excellence? Are your OODA loops shorter than the next guy’s?
- Do you routinely use hot, aspirational words-terms like “Excellence” and BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal, per Jim Collins) and “Let’s make a dent in the Universe” (the Word according to Steve Jobs)? Is “Reward excellent failures, punish mediocre successes” your de facto or de jure motto?
- Do you subscribe to Jerry Garcia’s dictum:“We do not merely want to be the best of the best, we want to be the only ones who do what we do”?
- Do you elaborate on and enhance Jerry G’s dictum by adding,“We subscribe to ‘Best Sourcing’— and only want to associate with the ‘best of the best’.”
- Do you embrace the new technologies with child-like enthusiasm and a revolutionary’s zeal?
- Doyou“serve”and“satisfy”customers…or“goberserk”attemptingtoprovideeverycustomerwith an “awesome experience” that does nothing less than transform the way she or he sees the world?
- Do you understand … to your very marrow … that the two biggest under-served markets are Women and Boomers-Geezers? And that to “take advantage” of these two Monster “Trends” (FACTS OF LIFE) requires fundamental realignment of the enterprise?
- Are your leaders accessible? Do they wear their passion on their sleeves? Does integrity ooze out of every pore of the enterprise? Is “We care” your implicit motto?
- Do you understand business mantra #1 of the ’00s: DON’T TRY TO COMPETE WITH WAL*MART ON PRICE OR CHINA ON COST? (And if you get this last idea, then see the 12 above!)