In today’s constantly evolving and increasingly competitive business landscape, many companies are urgently developing new products/services and exploring new revenue streams.  However, their traditionally developed business strategies are either outdated or not as directly applicable.  Over time, strategy comes unmoored from competitive reality, leading to misalignment of the company’s offerings, target markets, development priorities, marketing messages, and so on.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to do a full strategic overhaul, committing to a lengthy and far-reaching conventional strategy project.  But some companies are beginning to “think different” (Apple’s classic mantra) about strategy.  They realize that a clear, concise and timely strategy coupled with the right offerings and capabilities is the way they are going to win in the marketplace.  And large, long, expensive strategy efforts may not get them there soon enough (if at all).  Increasingly, companies are looking for ways to update their business strategies in a more rapid, focused way.

What is Rapid Cycle Strategy?

Rapid Cycle Strategy is a methodology for compressing and focusing the strategy development cycle to more effectively align with the realities of changing internal and external environments.  Rapid Cycle Strategies operate over shorter time horizons and are quicker to develop and test – and thus are more responsive to your (and your competitors’) innovation cycles.  They require fewer resources to develop and are significantly less costly than traditional strategy programs.

A Rapid Cycle Strategy project includes these elements:

  • Identify the key mismatches between current strategy-in-practice, demonstrated capabilities, and the competitive landscape — good candidates for these mismatches are almost always known or suspected among the executive team, and it doesn’t necessarily require time-consuming, deep study to reveal them.
  • For each mismatch, specify “what you would have to believe” to think that relieving the mismatch would make a real difference; and then test that (where possible) quickly and economically.
  • For each mismatch, decide “what you would have to do” to fix it, and how hard that would be: would you need new products / services?  Different capabilities?  Different business models?  Different organizational structure?  Different people?  Different customers?  Different markets?
  • Select one or two to work on first, prioritizing more highly those with a better combination of potential payoff and the work required to fix the mismatch.
  • Craft a set of actions (assigning accountability) to fix the selected mismatches, and test (where possible) with pilot programs and test markets. Make adjustments on the basis of the testing.
  • Develop and communicate a strategy statement which clearly describes what you are changing and why.

Many strategy efforts eventually address these items, but often take a long time to get there — and many times the organization feels “disconnected” from the work and the resulting choices.  Our experience has shown that there is a better way.  A few focused, multi-disciplinary workshops comprised of subject matter experts enables the harvesting of tribal knowledge.  This knowledge is of better quality and is much more rapidly developed than by traditional means.

“Cutting to the chase” in this manner not only enables a more accurate, timely and cost effective strategy, but it engenders “buy-in” for subsequent execution.  Many strategy efforts are wasted as there is not alignment and buy-in from those responsible for its ultimate success.  The Rapid Cycle Strategy process significantly increases the chance of success.

Will the senior executive teams of major corporations move away from large corporate strategy efforts in the near future?  Possibly not, but increasingly the business units/divisions of these companies are — and you should be too!

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