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5 Tips for Developing an Effective Business Strategy

I did a Twitter chat with Ken Troupe for his sports business class and there were a lot of questions about strategy, especially how to create an effective strategy.

To continue the discussion I was having with Ken and his students, I wanted to offer 5 tips for developing an effective strategy.

Know What Success Looks Like:

I begin every one of my workshops and strategy working sessions with the question: “What Does Success Look Like?”

The question reminds me of the line from Alice in Wonderland about “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.”

To set an effective strategy, you have to begin by knowing where you are going and what success will look like.

The destination may change.

But you need to begin with an idea of where you are going so that you have a way of funneling your choices and your actions.

Recognize that planning isn’t strategy:

I don’t remember the first time I heard this statement offered up, but it has stuck with me that “planning is procrastination.”

I come back to that idea all of the time because I encounter leadership teams around the world that start out by saying, “We need to study this and come up with a plan.”

The problem with the planning is that it never comes to an end and often leads to an empiral top-down “strategy” that is removed from the realities of the business environment and the customers that strategy is supposed to be designed to serve.

Planning is planning.

Strategy is about action.

No strategy will win without action. Planning stands in the way of action by prolonging the period before actions can be taken.

Maximize participation in the strategy process:

You want to get a diverse set of voices in your strategy.

Too many organizations fail at strategy because their strategies are built on strategy being set in the boardroom and “commanded” down from above.

Strategies that have to be “sold” to the workforce aren’t likely to be successful. Strategies that feel like responses to the real issues and challenges that customer level employees are seeing have a much better likelihood of being successful. Strategies that include feedback and ideas from all layers of the organization from that start are the ones that are likely to be most successful over time.

Winning Strategies are Flexible:

We’ve always lived in a VUCA business environment, but too many people have stumbled on the acronym like it is a new thing.

The VUCA obsessed crowd often contribute to the noise around being unable to plan or create a strategy becuase things are just too chaotic and uncertain now.


Things were always chaotic and uncertain, but having no strategy is a strategy…but one that leads to chaos, not success.

Winning strategies are flexible in the way that they point the business in a direction of success, but leave enough slack in the decision system to adjust to new information, tools, or customer feedback.

In other words, they aren’t rigid prescriptions. The are flexible creations that mutate and evolve as real-world circumstances require.

Create feedback loops:

My flagship internal working session, “The Whiteboard Workshop” is built around the idea of focus and action.

At the end of the day, we’ve set 1 or 2 goals that we give ourselves 45-90 days to achieve.

At 30 days, the first phase of the feedback loop kicks in when I follow up to see where we are with our goals.

Did you take the immediate actions we discussed?

What’s working? Not working? Standing in your way?

This process continues every 15 days until we hit our goal or hit 90 days.

At each step, we look at where we started and where we are.

We judge our successes or setbacks.

Then, we adjust.


Over and over until we achieve our goals.

I can go on with ideas to help you set a winning strategy, but these 5 are often starting spots for rapid business momentum.

Let me know what you are thinking in the comments.