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Building a winning market strategy: the importance of simplicity, focus, and routine

Bryan Lukas, Professor of Marketing and Academic Director of Executive Education at Alliance Manchester Business School, explains the essential components of masterful strategic planning.

Successful business leaders understand the importance of an unbeatable strategy. 

However, according to recent research, around two thirds of business executives feel dissatisfied with their strategic planning processes and do not believe such processes deliver strong results for their organisation.

I would argue that climate change, COVID, and other unprecedented political and economic factors have acted as a stark reminder of the importance of strategic planning, because it prepares managers for multiple plausible futures and acts as a ‘safety process’ to activate when unforeseen challenges arise. 

So why are so many business leaders disappointed with their planning processes, and where might they be going wrong? 

The keys to successful strategic planning are simplicity, focus, and routine. 

Keep it simple

After observing for over 25 years how leading businesses in the most competitive world markets formulate their strategic plans, the first piece of advice would give to managers struggling with the strategic planning process is to keep it simple - taking things back to basics is key. 

Looking closely at winning strategies, they tend to be a lot less complex than one initially expects. The problem is that many managers do not realise this and get carried away in their planning process thinking that good strategies are sophisticated strategies. However, the truth is that complex strategies overly depend on specific conditions and are difficult to execute properly. 

A common mistake that organisations make when strategic planning is failing to identify what really matters, that is, they fail to realise what is essential for a strategy to succeed.

Now, of course, strategic objectives will differ from business to business. For some, the main goal will be to win more customers and increase market share; for others it may be to improve efficiency and productivity to increase output; but no matter the end goal, managers should ask themselves, what are the fundamental components to help the organisation achieve our nominated strategic goals?

Remain focused 

The second element of successful strategic planning is ensuring that analysis and decision-making link back to what really matters for achieving given strategic goals. Keeping this razor-sharp analysis and decision-making focus is paramount to ensure the planning process does not go off-track and involves too many different activities that ultimately prohibits strategic execution.

Embrace routine 

The third component, the one most often treated with suspicion, is for managers to embrace planning routines. Routines are powerful and the mark of a professional but are often seen as restricting or calcifying. 

There are two routine aspects to emphasise. One is to ensure that the powerful analysis tools available today for strategic planning are used systematically and regularly. This approach improves planning rigor and comparability of strategic and tactical alternatives.

The other aspect is to undertake the process of strategic planning routinely. For example, regular planning processes, including repeating a completed planning process, allows leaders to stress-test strategic assumptions over time and track market trends. In turn, this reduces the likelihood of catastrophic strategic errors becoming inevitable, avoidable mistakes seeping into business operations, and customers ultimately losing interest in the business.

Professor Bryan Lukas’s new short course, Market Focused Strategic Planning, aims to help business leaders develop the principles of simplicity, focus, and routine in their strategic planning processes. Overall, delegates will be equipped with the essential techniques and frameworks needed to design and deliver defensible, market-winning strategies that neutralize the competition. 

If you’re looking to overcome competitor forces and compellingly meet your customer’s expectations, discover how our new short course, Market Focused Strategic Planning, can help you achieve your core business goals. 


Blog posts give the views of the author, and are not necessarily those of Alliance Manchester Business School and The University of Manchester.

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