Anyone who has spent time in boardrooms is only too familiar with the term “strategy” being liberally, and often incorrectly, bandied about. Time consuming “strategy meetings” comprised of extensive presentations and documents that often end up forgotten on hard drives, don’t help the word’s perception. The term not only has become diluted, but in many settings, there has been an open backlash against strategic efforts. This reaction manifests itself in many ways including leaders subtly and sometimes overtly disparaging the role of strategy. In some cases, strategic efforts are swept aside to make time for other initiatives such as organizational cultural change, ERP implementation or innovation initiatives, all of which are critical to success, but which require a sound strategy that precedes their implementation. But regardless of which activities subvert strategic planning, the lack of its prioritization is most often due to a cultural reticence to make tough decisions and to evaluate the tradeoffs that are at the core of creating and capturing value.

“… the first step is to understand and embrace the role of strategy as the basis for all other business activities”

VENN is excited to partner with Michael Leiblein*, Associate Professor in the Strategy Management group at The Ohio State University’s Max M. Fisher College of  Business, to clarify the role and application of strategy to drive growth, to create a framework for innovation, and to ensure that brands thrive. Dr. Leiblein’s research goes a long way toward clarifying the often misunderstood and overused term strategy.”

In the first of a series of articles entitled “What is Strategic Management?” Leiblein explains that strategy is about creating the conditions that favor one’s own side over rivals – in other words, WHERE & HOW TO WIN. But how does an organization gain competitive advantage?  Leiblein summarizes the three essential elements of strategy: (1) Create a unique value proposition (2) Make tradeoffs to defend that position and (3) Organize operations to coordinate activities and foster desired behaviors.

Making progress on the essential elements of strategy is no easy task.  It requires a constant and concerted investment of time, thought and effort.  There are many tools and experts that can help a leadership team with their strategic decisions, but the first step is to understand and to embrace the role of strategy as the basis for all other business activities. Ignoring strategic planning only delays the inevitable need to define the organization’s growth trajectory, and while challenging, the alternative (i.e. executing in the absence of a sound strategy) is in the long –term far more painful and perilous.

*Dr. Michael Leiblein is an instructor in VENN Academy’s upcoming course – “Strategic Growth Through Innovation”.