Can Your Supply Management Organization Spot Bad Strategy?

As per this recent article on the perils of bad strategy, a good strategy does more than urge us forward toward a goal or vision; it honestly acknowledges the challenges we face and provides an approach to overcoming them. It embodies the hallmarks of Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory against the French and Spanish armada in 1805 where, outnumbered and outgunned, he prevailed against the enemy fleet without losing a single ship.

In comparison, bad strategy, which is often without focus, accommodates a multitude of conflicting demands and interests. It covers up its failure to guide by embracing the language of broad goals, ambition, vision, and values which are no substitute for hard work and good strategy. A good strategy is like a good brand. It makes an impact. It encourages a specific action, or set of actions, towards a specific goal. Stakeholders, customers, and market analysts love it or hate it. It is not another same-old, same-old slogan-based market statement that is heard today, forgotten tomorrow.

So how do you spot bad strategy? The McKinsey article on the perils of bad strategy, you look for the following hallmarks.

  • Failure to Face the Problem
    A strategy is a response to a challenge. There can be no strategy until the challenge is defined. If the real issue is not defined, the strategy will not work. For example, if labor relations are bad, new equipment will not improve productivity. If manufacturing costs are high, increasing sales will not increase profit margins.
  • Mistaking Goals for Strategy
    Audacious goals are great, but will never be achieved unless the company can identify a point of leverage to achieve that goal. An organization can only compete if it has a competitive advantage. It’s not just a push to succeed, it’s creating the conditions that will make the push effective.
  • Bad Strategic Objectives
    Strategic objectives cannot be fuzzy. They must be clearly defined. They can’t be blue sky. And they can’t be long lists of things to do. Good strategy works by focussing energy or resources on a select few pivotal objectives whose accomplishment should lead to a cascade of favourable outcomes. If the strategy doesn’t do this, it’s likely bad strategy.
  • Fluff
    If the strategy is nothing more than a restatement of the obvious, combined with a generous sprinkling of buzzwords, with no original thought, it’s bad strategy.

Your organization doesn’t have a bad strategy. It has a choice. Can your supply management organization make it?