Which Strategy is Right for My Company? Part 2- What They Want
Previously, in “What You Want,” we covered how you define success and that clarifying your definition should precede strategy development.
Here, in “What They Want,” we’ll discuss what others want, and how their ideas of success affect what strategy is right for your company.
What they want
“They” refers to your competitors.
Your competitors want to succeed in the same sandbox you’re in. That’s not what makes them competitors. They’re competitors because of how you and they want to succeed.
Say, for example, you and they both define success as return on investment (ROI) or contribution to the social good. Those are relatively amicable definitions because one of you does not have to lose for the other one to win. In other words, it’s not what’s called a constant-sum game. (A zero-sum game is a constant-sum game where zero is the constant sum.) It is possible for your ROI and theirs to rise. It is possible for your contribution to the social good and theirs to rise.
Say, for a different example, you and they both define success as market share. That’s a relatively confrontational definition because the only way one can win (market share goes up) is for the other to lose (market share goes down). Market share is a constant-sum game, where the sum is always, always exactly 100%.
Consider the implications. In the former, you and they share an interest in the health of the market. In the latter, you’d scorch the earth so long as you’re the last one standing.
(Notice, by the way, that that means markets or industries are not inherently peaceful or vicious. It is people who make them that way, even if unwittingly.)
Of course all the other combinations are possible. You may want a better world, they may want world domination. You may want the ethereal joy of personal satisfaction, they may want to scratch out a grim buck. Think about how those could play out.
Should you avoid using confrontational metrics in your definition of success? That’s another subject, and I’m not taking a stand on it here. All I’m saying is that definitions of success inherently affect strategies and actions.
What they want
There’s another “they.” Here, “they” refers to others in your company.
People ask me how many people work for me. I answer “none.” That’s because no one works for me. They work for themselves and their families. They work with me but they do not work for the purpose of helping me achieve success.
That’s why it’s important to align your interests with those of the people who work with you. If you’re a swashbuckling entrepreneur with an itchy trigger finger always on your six-shooting goal-seeking spreadsheet, and if the people working with you crave 9-to-5 stability with a clockwork paycheck, then you’ve got a disconnect. It’s not about being right or wrong, but it’s a disconnect just the same.
There are three basic ways to deal with such a disconnect.
– Hire people whose definitions of success parallel yours. You hire a person, not just a résumé.
– Set up compensation policies that reward success as you’ve defined it. You (the employee) get what you (the employer) pay for.
– Design your compensation so as to attract people who harmonize with the success you want. You (the employer) get what you (the employer) pay for.
The three are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are mutually reinforcing, and they define, they create, part of your company’s culture.
Coming up next
In our next installment we’ll talk about alignment. That’s where we make sure that what you and your colleagues want is the same thing, even if you use the same words. No, that’s not a typo; even if you use the same words. I’ve seen executive teams use the same words in the same way and still mean different things. I can prove it.
About the author
Mark Chussil is Founder and CEO of Advanced Competitive Strategies, Inc. and a 35-year veteran in competitive strategy. He has designed strategy simulators and conducted business war games for dozens of companies, in many industries, around the world, helping them make or save billions of dollars.
A highly rated and entertaining speaker, Mark speaks about strategic thinking at conferences and in corporate workshops. He has written three books, chapters for five others, and numerous articles, and he has been quoted in Fast Company, Harvard Management Update, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications.
Mark is also a Founder of Benefitics, LLC (which quantifies Social ROI for non-profit organizations) and a Founder of Crisis Simulations International, LLC. He earned his B.A. at Yale and his M.B.A. at Harvard.