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So, you think you have a strategy? Five poor excuses for a strategy

January 23, 2012 • Corporate Governance, Global Business, LEADERSHIP, STRATEGY & MANAGEMENT

By Freek Vermeulen

No matter how colourful your PowerPoint presentation, it does not mean you have a strategy. So what is strategy and what are the most common mistakes one can make when presenting a strategy?

 

Most companies do not have a strategy. Ok, I admit it, I do not have any solid statistics (if such a thing were possible) as evidence to back up this statement, but I do see a heck of a lot of companies, strategy directors, and CEOs present their “strategies” and I tell you, I think 9 out of 10 (at least) don’t actually have one.

Sure, it depends on the all-evasive question “what is strategy?” but even if you would take the most lenient of definitions, few companies actually have one. Let me not tire you with some real strategy textbook definitions but if I would just put it as “you know what you are doing, and why”, most firms would already fall short on this one.

Most companies and CEOs do not have a good rationale of why they are doing the things they are doing, and how this should lead to superior performance.

Most companies and CEOs do not have a good rationale of why they are doing the things they are doing, and how this should lead to superior performance.

I’d say there are 3 types of CEOs here: 1) CEOs who think they have a strategy; they are the most abundant; 2) CEOs who pretend to think that they have a strategy, but deep down they are really very hesitant because they fear they don’t actually have one (and they’re probably right); these are generally quite a bit more clever than the first category, but alas fewer in numbers; 3) CEOs who do have a strategy; there are preciously few of them, but invariably they head very successful companies.

So what do all these CEOs do, when confronted with the question “what is your strategy?” Well, of course they will retaliate with a PowerPoint presentation, headed by the title “our strategy”, and there is stuff on it. It just ain’t strategy.

Let me present you with five such common excuses for a strategy or, put differently, five examples of why the things on the PowerPoint are not strategy:



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