Everything You Need to Know About Strategy – A Baker’s Dozen Eternal Verities: Introduction

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

  1. 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?
  2. 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.?
  3. Is your Board of Directors as cool as your product offerings … and does it have 50 percent (or at least one-third) Women Members?
  4. 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!
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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”?
  8. 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’.”
  9. Do you embrace the new technologies with child-like enthusiasm and a revolutionary’s zeal?
  10. 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?
  11. 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?
  12. 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?
  13. 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!)