Building Business Strategies is Like Throwing Darts
One of the common buzz words going around in the business world today is ‘Strategy’. It is an essential part of any organizational growth, and also has its place in our personal lives too. A business may want to reduce shipping costs by 10%. A person might want to shed 10 pounds in weight. Specific goals are great, but how will they achieve them?
This is where strategies come into play with the potential to make or break your goal. Because of the rapid changes in markets and technologies, strategic thinking is more important for business executives today than ever before. But first, let us ground a definition.
What is Strategy?
Strategy is the planning and execution of tactics to achieve the desired goal. It is thinking deeply about the future, and how to go about shaping that future to our desired result. Strategies force you to think about what it is that you want to achieve and how to go about doing so. It’s about deciding the right approach. It’s all about taking proper aim.
Let’s use shooting darts to illustrate the five components critical to a well-thought-out strategy.
5 Components to Strategy
- Target Visualization
- Examine equipment/resources
- Assess the environment
- Execute & shoot
- Evaluate & adjust
1. Target Visualization
The most important part of hitting a target is, well, seeing the target. With darts, you have to know where you are aiming. Is the target 8 feet away, or is it 18 feet away? Are you aiming for the bullseye or another specific spot on the board? Each will call for a different strategy. But regardless, you will need to know which direction to aim your efforts. Without a vision of the target, you might as well be shooting blind.
Similarly, business strategies must have the right goal in mind. You must be able to visualize what it is that you want to achieve. The intent must be clearly defined. This vision of the desired future needs to be compelling enough to motivate strong action. This is the most essential part of any strategy. The end goal that you desire is what the entire strategy will be built upon. All the steps between now and the end goal derive from this first step. This is what will motivate yourself and your team to follow through on your strategy. If the goal is undefined, we end up shooting blind.
2. Examine Equipment
Before throwing a dart, it is a good idea to examine the equipment being used. Throwing a dart with a broken-off tip will fail. Does the dart have all of its flight fins intact? Is the tip plastic or steel? Is the shaft screwed tightly together? These factors can significantly skew a dart shot left or right. Good dart throwers check to make sure they have the right tools for sticking a target.
Much like examining darts, a business leader must have a good understanding of their organization’s capabilities. This involves knowing the strengths and weaknesses. A business cannot effectively compete in any market without recognizing what strengths and weaknesses will come together to create a competitive advantage. SWOT analyses are helpful tools when trying to understand internal capabilities better.
A vision without a strategy remains an illusion.” Lee Bolman.
Are we allocating the right resources, time, and energy and to the right places? Resources like financial capital, human capital, and technologies all need to be taken into account before deciding which goals are worthy of pursuit. Taking the time to appraise which competitive advantages your business has over others will help with building out a strong strategy. You have to know what equipment you have to work with before aiming.
3. Assess Environment
If you have ever been to a busy billiard and dart-throwing, you know that the atmosphere can be loud and distracting. People are moving, servers are roaming, and televisions are blasting. To tune out and zone into throwing darts, we typically take the time to assess the environment for anything that may affect our shot. For example, it is standard etiquette to hold off on shooting if there are players next to us ready and aiming to fire off a shot. An awareness of the surrounding environment can minimize distractions and maximize accuracy.
In addition to understanding our internal strengths, we are aware of how our external environment will affect achieving goals. In the business world, an environmental assessment will include factors like competitor offerings, geographic trends, laws, and political landscapes. This is where we conduct research to see what is happening outside of the organization, and how we can maneuver around possible complications that will hinder us from achieving our goals.
4. Shoot & Execute
Now we can see the target clearly. We evaluated our equipment to make sure the darts are ready for use. And we assessed our environment, and it looks all clear. We are finally willing to take a deep breathe, aim, and shoot at our target.
Achieving goals are 90% planning and 10% execution. At this point, we should have a solid strategic plan in place. We know what goal we want to hit. We understand our business’ strengths that we want to capitalize on, and weaknesses to avoid competing on. And our research has revealed critical insights into our market’s landscape. We are ready to execute our strategic plan to achieve our goal.
When it comes to strategy execution, it is essential to ensure there is enough energy and focus on the target. Every competitive environment has hardpoints and weak points. Be sure to focus on the weak points of the market – the spots that are penetrable. Put all the energy and focus on areas where they will have the most significant impact and effect. Businesses have limited resources, so we have to be able to pinpoint them in one spot instead of dispersing resources too broadly. Just like throwing darts, we want to concentrate focus on a specific point.
5. Monitor and Adjust
Dartboard players typically have three dart shots per round. When the first dart is thrown, we monitor the shot to see how it hits. If the shot is too far left, we adjust the second shot to go a little more right. It is with our second and third shots that we can adjust our throw.
Monitoring and adjusting strategic plans is beyond important. Because the future is unpredictable, there is a good chance that things will change. We must be able to remain agile enough to shift our strategy in moments where the environment shifts on us.
Monitoring the progress of your strategy can be done by determining what key performance indicators (KPIs) are most important to track in the beginning. These KPIs will let you know if you are hitting your mark. And when the KPIs are revealing to you that you are off the mark, you must be able to dig deeper to understand why your strategies are not on track.
We cannot develop strategic plans that are too rigid and inflexible. Just as the environment changes rapidly, we must be able to be flexible and adapt to how our situation changes. A strategy without the intent to adjust is a failed strategy from the beginning. You must be prepared for the current scenario to change.
Strategies do not have to be long and complicated endeavors. It just takes a little thought. Like throwing darts, anyone can create a business strategy.
Starting with a clear vision of what you want, consider what tools you have, and what is going on in the world around you. Once that is done, you will have a plan of action to execute. Go on with your plans, and be ready to pivot when the world throws randomness your way.