One Word Your Enterprise Strategy Needs to Live By

strategystrategy_focusWhen Bill Gates and Warren Buffett first met each other at a dinner (hosted by Gates' mother), they were asked to describe in one word what defined their success. What was that one word?

Focus.

If you're not focused - then you could be in big trouble. What most firms focus on is their 'strategy,' and while strategy and focus are related, they are not quite the same. Let me explain.

Strategy, strategy, strategy.
Strategy is a word we hear almost every day if not multiple times a day. Blue ocean strategy. Exit strategy. Strategic thinking. Technology strategy. Mobile strategy. 

Large enterprises are faced with tough decisions about what strategies to pursue and where to allocate their resources. Strategy is especially difficult to nail down in the fast-paced world of technology. Who knew that in 2007 Apple would come out with a phone that would revolutionize the way we communicate and interact with wireless devices. Who knew that wearable technology and contextual computing would emerge and be headed for mainstream adoption due to the Internet of Things.  

Are you thinking about strategy in the right way for your enterprise?

How strategy and focus relate.
Author Greg McKeown wrote a fantastic article on focus recently. He talks about how focus really has two parts to it. Focus as a noun and focus as a verb. As Greg McKeown explains it, "When people speak of focus they usually mean having a single goal. It is a static thing, a thing you have." So basically, have a goal. Stick to it. On the other hand, you need to be 'focused' in a different light. As Mr. McKeown says, "This type of focus is not static; it is an intense, dynamic, ongoing, iterative process." Since I'm in the mobile product development world, I relate this to the Agile methodologies. We focus on quick iterations that allow us to pivot when solutions don't work out or when technologies change, among other reasons.

Henry Mintzberg is most famously known for his research and findings on business strategy theory. Deliberate strategy is mostly commonly known because it is strategy that is developed consciously by the leadership of an organization. What top management fails to recognize, however, is the sea of change that often upends nicely formed business plans. Mintzberg argues that emergent strategy, which comes about organically and cannot be predicted, needs to have high importance in the minds of business leadership. Again, two types of focus and the two types of strategy.

How Honda jumped on an emergent strategy.

I recently read a book that mentioned these principles and gave examples of companies that had one plan but adapted quickly to a new strategy that they couldn’t have predicted.

One such example is when Honda first tried to sell a competitor bike to the Harley’s and the Triumphs. This Honda bike was big, expensive, and riddled with problems. Sales were paltry. A different type of bike made by Honda, the Super Cub, was very popular in Japan. It was small, yet functional. When a Honda employee took his bike out to a dirt field to release frustration, the idea of ‘dirt bikes’ was born as more and more people saw the activity. Honda wasn’t successful with the original plan of competing with Harley’s, but with the new emergent strategy, they were successful with a different product. Deliberate strategy adapted to an emergent strategy. 

Don't miss the boat.

Are you set up for success?
What is your deliberate strategy? Are you focused? Do you have the resources available and allocated to catch the wind of an emergent strategy when it comes your way?

The agile methodologies in the product development life cycle allow companies of today to adapt quickly to emergent technology. The mobile industry is constantly evolving and revolutionizing the way we as consumers interact with mobile devices. At the recent WWDC we learned that iOS 8 will bring a whole slew of new opportunities for the enterprise. Additionally, Google announced the launch of Android "L" and their new material designs. If you’ve already set in stone your deliberate strategy, perhaps you need to rethink your strategy and focus.