In helping clients develop strategy, during the last 24 years, Bill Birnbaum learned that the most successful management teams place far more emphasis on strategic thinking than on strategic planning. Oh sure, they develop a strategic plan. And they publish their plan. And they share it with their employees. But their first priority is to create an environment of strategic thought.
He also discovered that successful management teams focus on four fundamental factors, or four pieces of the strategic puzzle…
1. Rather than try to accomplish "everything," they diligently maintain focus.
2. They develop and maintain an intimate understanding of their markets – and of their customers within those markets.
3. They truly care about – thus they nurture – their people.
4. And they carefully manage their processes.
This book includes four parts, each corresponding to a piece of the strategic puzzle. Those parts are: Focus, Markets, People and Process. Each part contains a number of chapters discussing important strategic concepts. In Part I, you’ll find the first piece of the strategic puzzle – focus. There, you’ll learn that focus is one of Bill Birnbaum’s two strong biases. It’s a point he consistently drives home with his clients. For he believes that focus -- that is, concentrating resources on few, rather than many -- leads to success. And, as he explains, "It isn’t enough to focus on just a few products, services, markets or activities. You’ve also got to be sure you’re focusing on the right ones."
Part II discusses your markets. In our capitalistic economy, there’s only one way to make money – you’ve got to sell something to somebody. So you and your management team had better care a whole lot about marketing. In Part II, you’ll examine your marketplace, your product or service offering, and your relationship with your customer.
In Part III, you’ll read about leading your people. Remember our mentioning that one of Bill Birnbaum’s two strong biases is focus? Well, his other bias is this – It’s one thing to develop a strategy; it’s quite another to get that strategy implemented. And you’re not likely to implement it successfully if your employees don’t care about it. So you’d better get your employees to care about your strategy. There’s just one way to do that – you’d first better care about your employees.
In Part IV, you’ll learn about managing process. Businesses contain processes and systems. And those processes and systems follow certain "truisms." Like "diminishing returns," "the 80-20 rule," and "the path of least resistance." Also in this section, you’ll contrast "working a process" with "working a project." And you’ll discover when you can beneficially use each. And when you can’t.
You’ll also find valuable lessons in both appendices. Appendix A discusses development of your mission statement. There, you’ll discover answers to three important questions, "What is a mission statement?" Why do we need one?" And "How should we write a mission statement?" In fact, you’ll learn a proven technique for developing your mission statement with just a few people, or with many people, participating.
In Appendix B, you’ll discover the weaknesses of the traditional strategic planning process -- thus the need to reinvent strategic planning. And you’ll learn of a new planning process – one more appropriate to the realities of our 21st Century.
And by the way, this isn’t an academic text. Instead, it’s a collection of strategic concepts learned over 24 years -- presented by way of anecdotal stories and simple diagrams. You’ll find it not only instructional, but also a fun read.