To begin with, understand that strategy is a cycle. As you loop around the cycle then you will learn more about your environment and the patterns that affect it. However, your action will also change the game and even your purpose. Everything is in flux.
The cycle itself can broken into discrete components. I tend to use a mechanism of spend control in order to collect information and introduce challenge within an organisation. I use Wardley maps to understand the landscape. I’m biased towards these because I’ve been using them for twelve years. However, any map will do, as long as it is a map.
The unimaginatively named ‘Wardley’ map is a map. By that I mean it has the basic characteristics of a map. The anchor for the map is the user need. The position of components is provided by a value chain with movement described by an evolution axis. Along with the basic characteristics, it also has some advanced concepts like flow (the lines represent flows of capital) and types (the component are different stocks of capital). You can read more on this mapping technique in the book I’m writing (creative commons).
Once you have a map, you will start to notice general patterns of change over time. These patterns are caused by the actions of everyone and will happen regardless of what you do. We call these climatic patterns. You should record these. I’ve provided a list for you to get started with and categorised the patterns for you.
The point of recording these climatic patterns is you can then re-apply them to other maps. This enables you to anticipate change. There are a whole host of advanced topics around this from weak signals to information markets but let us keep it simple.
As you use maps then you will also start to notice that other people and companies do things that influence their landscape. These specific patterns (i.e. they are ones that you could decide to use or not rather than ones which will occur regardless of your action) come in two forms. The universally useful ones (i.e. they apply to everyone) are called doctrine. The context specific ones are quite unimaginatively called context specific. I’m lousy at naming things. I’m far from a ‘sass that hoopy frood’ or down with the sirius cybernetics corporation marketing department. Hence my insistence on using ‘compute utility’ instead of ‘cloud’ or that ‘platform as a service’ should really be about code. However, I’ve provided you a list of doctrine and categorised them for you.
You really ought to use this doctrine (the universally useful patterns) to organise yourself. I’ve yet to find a valid reason why you wouldn’t. Anyway, to apply them just simply use your map. Also, it’s often useful to look at competitors and examine their use of doctrine. The less they use, the less adaptive they tend to be which can make gameplay a lot simpler and more fun.
Now we switch gears and get into leadership stuff. The first thing you need to do is determine where you could invest. You start by taking the map to which you have applied climatic patterns (i.e. you’ve anticipated where it is changing) and then you add the dreaded substance of thought (along with copious amounts of discussion).
But just finding where you could invest is not enough, you now need to answer the question of why here over there. Many factors are involved in such investment decisions and they are strongly influenced by the ways in which you might manipulate the market (along with more mundane aspects like financial models, which you can also build from maps). So, it’s fairly useful to have been learning and recording those context specific patterns. I’ve provided you a list which I’ve also categorised for you. Do remember, some of these are slightly evil and so use the more Machiavellian types sparingly.
You use your maps and the context specific play to determine where you’re going to attack and how you’re going to play the game. You answer that why of movement question (i.e. the why here over there) by finding the most beneficial path. Once you’ve determined the path, I often find scenario planning around it to be useful in preparing for counter plays and tools like business model canvas are great to double check your thinking.
Now you act and loop around the loop again. Note, by acting your purpose might change. You started as the games company and then you became an online photo service. Everything is in flux.
Anyway, you get better with practice. You learn more patterns and overtime you become good at this stuff. It’s a bit like chess. Unfortunately, just like chess, the downside is it requires some effort and practice.
Alternatively, if this all sounds too complex then don’t panic. You can always use the auto strategy generator. It might be wildly inaccurate but it has the advantage of being faster and simpler to use. It does however need updating with the latest memes like AI, IoT, Digitalization, Platform Economy, Serverless, Uberization, HorizontalWobble, Industry 4.0 and Earlobes. Ok, I made the HorizontalWobble up … but hey, if others can come up with Industry 4.0 and Earlobes (aka phrenology of management) then what’s wrong with HorizontalWobble? With the constant bombardment of memes then I think we can classify this bit of mischievousness as “mostly harmless”.
Now, where did I put that towel?