Three Pillars of Strategy
By Josh Simons on Sep 18, 2006
For many people the question "What's the strategy"? is equivalent to "What's the roadmap?" In their view strategy is all about the What. In fact, there are other equally important elements to consider.
A successful strategy must embrace the Who and the How as well. It is only with competency in all three of these areas that a company will be able to deliver a truly WOW experience to its customers. Conventional wisdom is to lump How and Who together as Execution rather than Strategy issues, but that's a bug because the three aspects are intimately related and should be considered together.
A company that pays attention to the Who ensures through hiring and skills development that employees will be ready and able to deliver the What. In practice, this requires an understanding of future skills requirements as they relate to the corporate strategy in addition to any current requirements. And skills are not the only issue. Those employees who will execute on the What need the appropriate context on which to base the myriad decisions they will need to make during a product's design and implementation phases. In particular, they should have an understanding of the state of the art as practiced by competitors and, if appropriate, the research community. Add to that a firm grasp of their customers' needs and an ability to distinguish when innovation is appropriate and when it is not.
A company can stumble as it executes its strategy even with the appropriate vision and people in place if attention is not paid to How products are developed. The methodologies matter. Achieving an appropriate level of quality, delivering a product quickly, and doing so without killing your development team is all part of the How. Other aspects of How that can yield benefits are maintaining a culture of data (e.g. a six sigma orientation), assessing the value of new development approaches like extreme programming or agile methods, and introducing formal inspection processes for code or other work products, to name a few. A focus on process for process' sake is not useful. Instead, focus on finding that level of methodology and process which is appropriate for the task at hand.