As part of my consulting work I’m asked to review a lot of vision statements, strategic intent statements, and strategic plans. Something struck me in my latest review this week, and I’ve found it to be so prevalent that I think sharing this could be very helpful to top leaders and strategic planners as they develop these key corporate direction documents. So here it is.
And that’s the power of Not.
It’s only natural, from an economic standpoint, that companies would like to sell to as many people as possible. So we see target niches that include consumers that at all income levels. And geographic niches that include all regions on the planet.
But targeting to sell to everyone, everywhere has two basic problems. First is that people, in this day and age, like to think they’re being marketed to for their specific needs. And second, no one company has the resources to chase all the opportunities on the planet. There needs to be an allocation of scarce resources, but I often don’t see this in a company’s strategy. Unfortunately, I typically do see this allocation occurring informally, on an ad hoc basis, at the division or department level at budgeting time, which is definitely too low a place in the organization for this to be happening.
It’s extremely helpful to say Not in strategic documents, and many times also in a company’s vision statement. A statement like “We’re in the telecommunications space, but we’re NOT going to play in the cable market” helps send a clear message to directors and managers where they should spend their time and efforts.
In addition to allocating scarce resources, this practice of saying Not also helps focus on key strengths. I know of one pulp and paper mill company that once diversified by purchasing a cruise line to run as a separate division. They ended up exiting quickly, as they really didn’t know how to run that business profitably. And it showed.
So don’t forget the power of Not in your vision and strategy – it can save you a lot of time, money, and workforce confusion about strategic choices.