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Porter's Five Force Model Essay

5603 words - 23 pages

Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?
by David J. Collis and Michael G. Rukstad
CAN YOU SUMMARIZE YOUR COMPANY’S STRATEGY in 35 words or less? If so, would your colleagues put it the same way? It is our experience that very few executives can honestly answer these simple questions in the affirmative. And the companies that those executives work for are often the most successful in their industry. One is Edward Jones, a St. Louis–based brokerage firm with which one of us has been involved for more than 10 years. The fourth-largest brokerage in the United States, Jones has quadrupled its market share during the past two decades, has consistently outperformed its rivals in terms of ROI through ...view middle of the document...

The kinds of complaints that abound in such firms include: • “I try for months to get an initiative off the ground, and then it is shut down because ‘it doesn’t fit the strategy.’ Why didn’t anyone tell me that at the beginning?” • “I don’t know whether I should be pursuing this market opportunity. I get mixed signals from the powers that be.” • “Why are we bidding on this customer’s business again? We lost it last year, and I thought we agreed then not to waste our time chasing the contract!” • “Should I cut the price for this customer? I don’t know if we would be better off winning the deal at a lower price or just losing the business.” Leaders of firms are mystified when what they thought was a beautifully crafted strategy is never implemented. They assume that the initiatives described in the voluminous documentation that emerges from an annual budget or a strategic-planning process will ensure competitive success. They fail to appreciate the necessity of having a simple, clear, succinct strategy statement that everyone can internalize and use as a guiding light for making difficult choices. Think of a major business as a mound of 10,000 iron filings, each one representing an employee. If you scoop up that many filings and drop them onto a piece of paper, they’ll be pointing in every direction. It will be a big mess: 10,000 smart people working hard and making what they think are the right decisions for the company – but with the net result of confusion. Engineers in the R&D department are creating a product with “must have” features for which (as the marketing group could have told them) customers will not pay; the sales force is selling customers on quick
David J. Collis (dcollis@hbs.edu) is an adjunct professor in the strategy unit of Harvard Business School in Boston and the author of several books on corporate strategy. He has studied and consulted to Edward Jones, the brokerage that is the main example in this article, and has taught in the firm’s management-development program. Michael G. Rukstad was a senior research fellow at Harvard Business School, where he taught for many years until his untimely death in 2006.

turnaround times and customized offerings even though the manufacturing group has just invested in equipment designed for long production runs; and so on. If you pass a magnet over those filings, what happens? They line up. Similarly, a well-understood statement of strategy aligns behavior within the business. It allows everyone in the organization to make individual choices that reinforce one another, rendering those 10,000 employees exponentially more effective. What goes into a good statement of strategy? Michael Porter’s seminal article “What Is Strategy?” (HBR November– December 1996) lays out the characteristics of strategy in a conceptual fashion, conveying the essence of strategic choices and distinguishing them from the relentless but competitively fruitless search for operational efficiency. However, we have found in...

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