Keep it simple
There is no shortage of advice on how to arrive at a strategy for your business. Academics, journalists and CEO's fill airport bookshelves with their musings. Insights are offered from Shakespeare and Winnie the Pooh. Lessons are taken from warfare, biology or baseball. And if the books don't grab you, the Conferences will.
Fashions come, fashions go. The better ideas on business strategy come in cycles, but the best ideas are timeless - a rigorous understanding of how the money comes in to, and how it goes out of, your company. And of the critical capabilities that to maximise one and minimise the other. Get to the bottom of that, and you're 90% there. It's that simple: and that difficult.
I plugged it in but it's still not working!
Even if you have a superb, imaginative strategy, even if your communication is excellent, even if the CEO is walking the talk, many companies still fail to make headway. There remains a sense of cycling through rice - Why?
Strategies are never made in a vacuum - no business unit, no sales manager sits waiting patiently for the Board to give them a strategy. They develop their own; nothing big, you understand (though they all have their opinions on the big picture), just enough to manage the direction of their own ship in the fleet. This can range from being "off message" to discreetly refusing to kill a pet project. And when the overall strategy is set, do these disappear? Not on your life!
Hunt down the microstrategies
For a strategy to function effectively, a company has to make an honest evaluation of all the "microstrategies" being pursued at all levels of the company - especially those parts which interact with the outside world. If these are not identified, and ruthlessly eliminated, the firm will be as powerless as Gulliver pinned down by the Lilliputians.
In short, an effective strategy is almost more about being ruthlessly clear as to what a firm will not do - or rather, what it will no longer do - than what it aspires to achieve.