Five questions to help drive successful business strategy


rotmanwinter20131

I recently picked up the Winter 2013 issue of Rotman magazine while wandering the Barnes and Noble in Boulder, Colorado. The Rotman magazine is a periodical from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. An article that caught my eye discussed five questions that should asked to serve as the framework for any type of business strategy formation. The authors of the piece are clear that the answers to these questions should be answered in the order presented. The questions may seem very simple at first, but once you sit down and try to answer them, you’ll discover that they may be more challenging to answer than you anticipated.

The Five Questions

  1. What is your winning aspiration? The answer to this question should be more than just your “mission statement.” It should be a clear goal that you set forth and act upon. An example of this is Procter & Gamble. P&G decided that its aspiration was to “create products and services that would improve consumers’ lives.” Then they acted upon the aspiration.
  2. Where will you play? It is important to be as specific as possible when answering this question. A specific answer will let you focus your efforts on accomplishing your aspiration, while also determining if your playing field of choice will really advance the core goals of the company.
  3. How will you win? To answer this, think about what will enable…”unique value, and how [to] deliver that value to customers in a way that is distinct from…competition.”
  4. Which capabilities must be in place? Think about what specific abilities are unquestionably necessary to win, while reflecting on your answers to the previous three questions.
  5. What management systems are required? It is important to consider the “supporting structures, systems, and measures” than must be in place to achieve the goals that have been outlined in the first four questions. Management systems can be as simple as setting up regularly scheduled executive discussions on strategy review.

The point of the piece is to simplify the process of building a clear strategy with more than an easy to define aspiration, but an actual path to accomplishing the aspiration.

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