10 Questions to ask yourself about your Business Strategy

We are so seduced by those short, self-administered tests that promise to reveal our ‘true north’. They will help us identify all sorts of hidden strengths, from our ability to brainstorm through to our natural leadership talent. The fact that it only takes 60 seconds to run the test is also a big attraction…..

But now and then, you may come across a really worthwhile article that goes beyond the over-simplified diagnosis so beloved of the Cosmo-style questionnaire.

In January 2011, McKinsey published a very useful article on how to test the strength of your strategy. What I like about the piece is that it doesn’t suggest easy answers – you have to go and really examine how well your company is focused on supporting its game plan. Here are the ten questions:

  • Test 1: Will your strategy beat the market?
  • Test 2: Does your strategy tap a true source of advantage?
  • Test 3: Is your strategy granular about where to compete?
  • Test 4: Does your strategy put you ahead of trends?
  • Test 5: Does your strategy rest on privileged insights?
  • Test 6: Does your strategy embrace uncertainty?
  • Test 7: Does your strategy balance commitment and flexibility?
  • Test 8: Is your strategy contaminated by bias?
  • Test 9: Is there conviction to act on your strategy?
  • Test 10: Have you translated your strategy into an action plan?

Source: McKinsey Quarterly, January 2011


The good news is that while strategy can be notoriously difficult to implement, research by McKinsey shows that the vast majority of companies don’t score 10/10 but rather 4/10!

A few months back, I was working with a group of SMEs who were at the beginning of a programme to build strategic strength for their businesses. What was very clear to me was that most of the organisations had ‘fallen over’ their strategy and had no real sense of their own game plan. Not only that, but they confused ambitious targets with strategy. To say you want your business to grow by 15% in a flat market is not a strategy – it’s an aspiration in the absence of a clear plan.

As we head in to 2012, let’s just settle on a few clear but winning ideas rather than chasing all seven colours of the rainbow.

Happy New Year!