Strategy is hard work

I recently read a wonderful blog post by Roger Martin regarding JC Penny’s dramatic strategy #FAIL over the past two years. (note: I do read other authors, I just haven’t gotten around to blogging about them!)

The blog post is “Memo to JC Penney: Execution Is Not Strategy“. I won’t repeat the entire post, but here are some key takeaways:

  • Strategy is a coherent set of choices about where-to-play (WTP) and how-to-win (HTW) and, if that WTP&HTW is significantly different than the current one, a credible path for getting from the present to the targeted state.
  • JCP had a plan for betterment and not winning — one of the most common mistakes in “strategy.”
  • JCP did not identify a set of shoppers with whom it could win — for whom JCP was their best alternative, to which they would look loyally for their shopping needs for some set of goods
  • JCP needs to decide how is it going to provide a superior value proposition to competitive alternatives in that chosen space. This is a tough task.

The last bullet point made me think of the blog post title. Developing a winning strategy is always difficult. Having the patience to think through multiple paths and determine “what must be true” of each path takes patience AND practice. You have to recognize that your first idea is probably not your best idea. You have to be motivated by your winning aspiration and be ready to change where you play and how you win.

If that all sound easy please get in touch with me! That said, I’m convinced that this work is worth it. Companies that have winning strategies deliver more value to their customers, employees and shareholders. Their hard work is rewarded in the end.

Do you or your company have a strategy? Or like JCP are you focused on betterment and not winning?


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