What About Customers?

In Jack’s post today “Five Questions That Makes Strategy Real” he reminds us that strategy is a living activity, not a presentation to over-prepare and review at headquarters. Or as some have said, review over and over and over, ending in no action whatsoever. Instead, Jack says, “You pick a general direction and implement like hell.” Execution has always been the better part of strategy.

But something in his encouragement misses the mark. Of the five questions posed, there is considerable attention paid to the competition. Of course, situational awareness is important, especially in over-crowded markets where few will survive (Healthcare IT comes to mind). Isn’t understanding customers and their world more important? What could be more fundamental than experiencing their problems, seeing their opportunities and effectively, repeatedly creating real value for all parties?

One of the five questions to make strategy real has to concentrate on value at the customer:

Do we understand our customers and how we add value? Where do we add value, where do we not? Are we invested in opportunities that create sustainable advantage? Is our culture and our execution geared to seeing, feeling, and “implementing like hell” solutions that make their world better?  Are we creating new customers?

These questions are not to entirely replace those focused on the competition, but instead offer a different priority. If you can’t implement real value who cares what the competition is doing?


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