Strategic Questions to ask you and Your Business

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Business Strategy QuestionsRunning your business is hard work. To prosper, you need to ask the right questions. These strategy questions will help you gauge the health and prospects of your organization. Use the answers to generate workable insights about the best strategies to pursue. Each question relates to an “implementation imperative” that is fundamental to business success:

Who Is Your Primary Customer?

Your firm can serve only one type of customer well. Designate resources to that customer’s satisfaction and well-being. Minimize the money, materials, and time you spend on products or services that don’t add direct value to your primary customer. Don’t imagine that you have “multiple customers.” If you do, you’ll spread your resources too thin and lose focus on the customer who matters.

Find your primary customer in the overlap of three factors: “perspective, capabilities and profit potential.” Perspective refers to your company’s unique raison d’être and its history, tradition and personality. Capabilities are resources at your disposal, including physical facilities, intellectual capital and financial assets. Assessing profit potential means looking at each possible alternative’s return on investment (ROI). Identifying who is not a customer helps.

How Do Core Values Prioritize Shareholders, Employees and Customers?

The five “feel-good” core values – “integrity, teamwork, diversity, continuous improvement and personal accountability” – that most companies promulgate are a “recipe for underperformance.” The second implementation imperative – “prioritizing core values” – depends on being realistic about how your firm ranks customers, employees, and shareholders. Know where your loyalties lie when you make hard decisions about “how to create value and for whom.” Pharmaceutical giant Merck believes that putting customers first benefits its shareholders in the long run. Southwest Airlines favors its employees and ranks customers and shareholders second and third. Test your firm’s core values the same way, not only in how you make decisions but also in how you promote and reward employees. When you reward bad behavior, you send as strong a message as you do when you reward good behavior.

What Critical Performance Variables Are You Tracking?

“Tracking performance goals” – the third implementation imperative – can mean the difference between success and failure. Many firms use various performance metrics to assess how well employees at all levels meet strategic goals and financial targets. Such “scorecards” draw mixed reviews from managers and staff, especially when they track 60 indicators. From five to nine performance metrics is a reasonable number; seven works.

People can generally remember facts in groups of seven: For example, US telephone numbers, days of the week, deadly sins, the colors of the rainbow, and so on. With a limited number of metrics, workers can focus on priorities and managers can monitor their efforts. Too many metrics restrict people and stifle experimentation and innovation.

A group of metrics can do more harm than good unless your company derives them from its strategic plan. You must be able to transform your metrics into a “theory of value creation” that your people understand, remember and practice.

What Strategic Boundaries Have You Set?

“Controlling strategic risk” – the fourth implementation imperative – aligns with tracking performance metrics. Prevent workers from spending time and resources on projects that don’t fit with the firm’s goals. Control strategic risk by defining clear boundaries that explain acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Stating boundaries in the negative is surprisingly effective. Explain from the start which actions will get someone fired. Summarize your boundaries on one page.

Protect your company from two kinds of risk: Start first with activities that could damage its reputation. The second type of risk comes from activities that divert resources from your strategic goals and primary customer. Be careful about “unbridled creativity and unfocused initiatives” that can sabotage your strategic path. Clarify where you draw your “line in the sand.”

What Strategic Uncertainties Keep You Awake at Night?

“Today’s strategy won’t work tomorrow.” The final implementation imperative – “adapting to change” – is the most critical. Most companies adhere to old ways while dying – slowly or suddenly. You must worry about what might happen tomorrow. Your entire company must worry, too. Create an awareness of “strategic uncertainties” that could derail your current strategy or put you out of business. The best way to help employees adopt “healthy and productive” worry is to focus on the issue yourself.

“Everyone watches what the boss watches.”

And the future

These strategy questions will be most effective when you raise them in face-to face encounters, provided you encourage participation throughout your company, limit discussion to what is right and not who is right, and remember to ask, “What are you going to do about it?”

The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.

Mark Zuckerberg

Download our whitepaper, 5 Ways Blue Ocean Strategy Can Boost Your Business today and set your course for clear blue waters.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patrick Murphy
SiliconCloud provides high-quality, customized solutions to satisfy business objectives by leveraging the online space to drive leads and nurture customer relationships. SiliconCloud's integrated solutions of Web Creative, Analytics, Search Marketing & Social Media is designed to elevate your image, inform sales strategies and drive business. SiliconCloud means having a clear vision. Dozens of organizations in B2B and B2C arenas have counted on SiliconCloud to pave their road to the future by securing their online presence

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