Seven Strategy questions (A simple approach for better execution) was assigned to me for a second year MBA class on strategy. However, I never actually got around to reading it due to other commitments (sorry Professor Rucci). Now that I have had time to do some reading for pleasure I am happy I picked this book back up.
Simons breaks strategy management into a simple framework with seven questions – hence the name of the book. These questions are all about execution though, and not what your strategy is. They are as follows:
- Who is your primary customer – this is a misleading question, your primary customer may not be the person walking into your stores. It can actually be your employees, distributors, or franchises. Misidentification of your primary customer will cause your strategy execution to fail, and your customer may change over the life of the enterprise.
- How do your core values prioritize shareholders, employees, customers – if core values are not identified and prioritized then you will stumble. Pushing your core values will allow for decisions to be made easily and in a concrete fashion.
- What critical performance variables are you tracking – key performance indicators are critical, but we tend to measure the wrong ones. This misidentification of KPI’s leads us to not being able to track if our execution is successful.
- What strategic boundaries have you set – what actions are unacceptable? How much leeway are you giving to your employees and do they know it?
- How are you creating creative tension – this question is all about innovation. How are you motivating everyone to act as competitors?
- How committed are your employees to helping each other – do your compensation policies allow for collaboration? How is success measured, and is it shared?
- What strategic uncertainties keep you up at night – how do you get everyone to focus on issues and share information from the bottom up? Without shared information your strategy will fail.
For a HBS book this is a very light read that will lead you to asking these questions of your own organization as you are reading. I regret not reading this book in my prior roles as the puzzle pieces started to fit together. I plan on walking through this book in every role in the future in order to define my strategic priorities.