Tuesday, March 17, 2015

In terms of strategy, WHY is irrelevant without WHERE

Think of a map in combat or a chessboard. There are two things that both instruments tell you.

First, is the position of things or WHERE things are in relation to other things. This Knight is on this part of the board next to the King etc. The troops are on this hill and the enemy is in the pass below.

The second thing they tell you is WHERE things can move to. We can move these troops positioned on the hill, down the hill to the south but we can't move the same troops north because there is a cliff which falls into the sea etc. We can move this Knight here or that Rook there.

A map in business enables you to draw a line of the present (an existing business or organisation) on a landscape of position (value chain) vs movement (evolution) and from this determine a direction of travel. See figure 1.

Figure 1 - A MAP

On the map we have an hypothetical business represented by points A to B to C in a chain of needs. We can see the relationship between components. We know all these components will evolve due to supply and demand competition. We know we can manipulate this evolution (open efforts, patents, FUD, constraints etc). We know that as components evolve they can enable higher order systems to appear.

This is what we call Situational Awareness.

Hence, from your map (even a simple example like above) you can see multiple points WHERE you might attack. Do we want to commoditise a component? Do we want to drive up the value chain into creating a higher order system?

We're going to deep dive soon on some strategic gameplay and weak signal techniques but before we do, I need to make this bit very clear. The WHY of strategy is always a relative statement as in WHY here over there? Why move the rook here over there? Why move the troops down the hill over providing suppressing fire to the pass? Without the WHEREs then WHY usually deteriorates into how, what and when (i.e. action statements).

You can usually tell competitors who have little to no situational awareness because they use verbal reasoning (i.e. stories) and talk about the need to focus on action but when you ask them why are they attacking this space over another, they often get flummoxed, a bit hand wavy and quickly move into inspirational, vision and action statements -

"We're going to make the lives of cats better everywhere. It's part of our vision to become the best supplier of cat food. That's why we're building the internet of things for kittens!"

This is always useful to know. These people are potential fodder to your cannons and easy prey. They are your soft targets, the ones to take out first. With practice, you can often use inertia to get them to self implode and fight themselves.

BUT be warned. When asked the same question you need to reply in the same vague, hand wavy way. Don't give away information. Misinform. So do a bit of digging on your competitors before you attack. Just in case they know what they're doing. Chances are, you'll be fine.

Which is the other point of mapping. Don't just map yourself, map your competitors. If a competitor doesn't understand the game, don't hesitate to help yourself to their market. It's always easier to build by taking out the easy prey before you tackle the hard targets.