“What should a strategy look like? Is it a short mission statement or a long report?”
Let’s get this part out of the way first: a mission statement does not a strategy make. By the book, a mission statement deals with your company’s purpose and its reason for being? Your mission speaks to your culture and who you are as a company. But a mission does not generally speak to who you want to be or where you want to go. In short, it deals with today, not tomorrow. And, so, at least in my opinion, not only does your mission not define your strategy, it is questionable as to whether or not it has any place in the strategic process at all.
OK – but even with that little clarification out of the way, I’m pretty sure that’s not what this question is driving at. What I do think is being asked here is more to do with what format your strategy should take. Is it a paragraph, a presentation, a lengthy report? And the admittedly cop-out answer that I’m going to give is, yes – it can be all of those things.
Rather than worry about how long your strategy is, or even what specific format it should take, I suggest that you focus more on making sure that your strategy contains all of its necessary parts – which, in short, are:
- Situation – What’s happening around you?
- Goals – What do you want to achieve?
- Plan – How are you going to achieve it?
- Investments – What will you need to carry out your plan?
- Results – How will you know when you’ve succeeded?
Once you have all the parts, you’ll need to be able to communicate your story so that other people can help you carry out your plan. In most cases, this can take the form of a simple presentation containing anywhere from 12 to 20 slides. But I have also seen some very effective strategic plans that take the form of much more comprehensive reports; as well as an even greater number of plans that are communicated verbally without any formally written report at all. And although that latter format is not one that I would normally recommend, the point is that an effective strategy comes from having and communicating your situation, goals, plan, investments, and anticipated results. Leave one of those out and, no matter how short or long your report is, your strategy will be incomplete.
Listen to the podcast episode
Dear Strategy: Episode 008