7 Corporate Strategy Myths That Are Limiting Your Potential

7 Corporate Strategy Myths

Dr. Chuck Bamford’s new book, The Strategy Mindset, is a practical guide for creating a corporate strategy. Having read more books on strategy than I can remember, I particularly like this one. As I read the book, there were times I found myself arguing with the author. At other times, I was nodding. Still at other times, I found myself with immediately actionable ideas to improve the process at my own organization. And that’s why I enjoyed the read so much.

I think the most controversial part of his book is likely the myths section, where he takes apart existing myths of corporate strategy.

 

“Strategy is about making decisions that will impact the company in the future.” -Chuck Bamford

 

1. People Are Not A Competitive Advantage

Let’s talk about the myths.

First, you say that people are not a competitive advantage. You argue that almost all employees are interchangeable. Good employees are just “table stakes.” Is it not possible to have employees who, on average, are better than the competition?

It flies in the face of so many beliefs that it is just hard to accept. Employees are VERY important as the way that business delivers to customers. However, the moment that you actually believe that your employees are smarter than your competitors’ is the moment that your competitors will start beating you in the market. You have the same (or relatively the same) collection of amazing employees, capable employees, and poor employees as your competitors. All the HR processes in the world today have not changed that dynamic in companies. The employees that you have working in your company are a combination of luck (the biggest factor), HR practices, networking, and did I mention luck!

Bamford CoverI’m not trying to be divisive here, but most of your customers do not generally care (or if they care at all, it is slight) who takes care of their business needs as long as the needs are taken care of. This does not apply to every employee in a company, just most. At every company I have ever worked with or for, there is a contingent of “franchise” employees. Those are employees who, if they left the company, would impact the success of that company quite substantially. We all know who these folks are, and if executives are smart, they take care of these employees to ensure that they stay with the organization. These “franchise” employees are not just the customer-facing employees; they reside throughout an organization.

 

“Employees are not your competitive advantage.” -Chuck Bamford

 

2. SWOT is NOT Strategy

Second, you are not a fan of the SWOT. What’s wrong with the way most organizations use it?

SWOT is the single biggest impediment to doing real strategy that exists, and it exists because certain big consulting firms continue to use it with their clients, and it makes clients “feel good” without really having to do strategy.

SWOT was an attempt to bring some structure to the topic, and as a conceptual approach, it is still fairly robust. Unfortunately, many authors, academics, and practitioners decided that SWOT was an analysis tool and a means for a company to develop its strategy. SWOT is NOT strategy, and it is not an analysis tool.

Anyone can create a SWOT. It is grounded in your own biases and view of the world. In the end, a SWOT is simply the opinion of the person or group filling it out.

 

“SWOT is the single biggest impediment to doing real strategy.” -Chuck Bamford

The Power of the Simple

The Goal of Simplicity

Whether it’s design or instructions, we want things simple—not too simple to the point of insulting, but not too complex and thus confusing. What starts as an admirable goal – simplicity – is actually not a simple subject.

 

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” -Thoreau

 

Dan Ward’s latest book, The Simplicity Cycle: A Field Guide To Making Things Better Without Making Them Worse, aims to help people make good decisions about complexity. After retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel from the US Air Force where he served for 20 years as an acquisition officer, Dan launched his own consulting firm. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Dan about the not-so-simple subject of simplicity.

 

Why Simplicity Matters

Define simplicity and tell us why it’s so important and a passion for you.

Simplicity is an ironically complex topic, and it means different things in different contexts. In a general sense, something is simple when it does not have a lot of interconnected parts. Of course, the definition of “a lot” changes depending on whether we’re talking about a spacecraft or a pencil sharpener. I write about both of those.

 

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius

 

Simplicity matters because it has such a big effect on us, our technologies, and our ability to communicate. When it’s done well, simplicity makes communication clearer. It makes our technologies easier to use and more reliable. But when it’s done badly, simplicity can actually make things more confusing and harder to use, so it’s important to figure out how to do it well. Ultimately, that’s the point of the book.

 

Why We Overcomplicate