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Michael Porter's Wise Words

"Of course strategy is hard
- it's about making tough choices."

Strategy is not the same as operational effectiveness. Strategy is making choices, trade-offs; it's deliberately choosing to be different. On the other hand, operational effectiveness is a no-brainer. It's what's good for everybody and what every business should be doing.

Michael Porter is a professor in the Harvard Business School. He was the world guru in the 70's and 80's on strategy and was an adviser to many of the strongest global business enterprises.

His first book, "Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors" (Free Press, 1980) is in its 53rd printing and has been translated into 17 languages. These wise words were taken from an article in the 44th issue of the magazine Fast Company. The full article is no longer available online.


If you do the same thing as your rivals, then you won't be very successful. It's incredibly arrogant for a company to believe that it can do just what its rivals do and really do better for very long.

In a successful organization, a strong leader makes the choices and defines the trade-offs. Really good strategies are created by really strong leaders. In great companies, strategy becomes a cause. That's because a strategy is about being different. With a really great strategy, people are fired up.

Strategy must have continuity. It can't be constantly reinvented. Strategy is about the basic value you're trying to deliver to customers, and about which customers you're trying to serve. Without continuity, your organization will not grasp what the strategy is. And it's hard for customers to know what you stand for.

Michael Porter is less clear on how to be different from your rivals. He says that Walmart, Dell and Intel are examples of companies who have done this. But how can you stand out from your rivals? How do you find the winning strategy for your company?

The world has changed dramatically in the last 10 years and this provides the answer. With the Internet, the customer is now in the driver's seat, more than ever. The customer can easily get information on all potential suppliers. Unfortunately this easily leads to information overload and stress. What your company must do is clearly stand out from your rivals in the eyes of potential customers. What is the customer really looking for and how do you provide it in a far superior way to what the competition offers?

The SMM approach to strategy starts with this question. It provides a comprehensive way of testing an existing strategy or developing a strategy where this has not been clearly defined.

If you would like this approach to work for you, SMM will be happy to assist you. Our help can be configured to meet exactly the needs you have. Our strengths, experience, creativity and practical common sense can complement those of your company. So write us a Message today on what you're looking for without obligation.

Barry Welford

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