Strategy: point a, point b, and the line between

A strategy is a plan to achieve a goal that will provide the organisation with a competitive advantage. Generating a strategic plan begins with identifying the organisation’s purpose through a mission statement, a vision of the future, and a set of objectives as performance targets. 

Once the direction is decided, the internal and external environments are analysed to assess the current strengths, weaknesses, and competitive environment. Tools like Porter’s five forces model, PEST analysis, and Resource-based view (RBV) support the generation of this internal and external map. 

A clear picture of the environment allows the organisation to make choices about creating value and achieving a competitive advantage. Areas in which a company can choose to find an advantage include:

  • Undercutting competitors on price through economies of scale or reducing costs.
  • Differentiating products to make them more attractive to specific market segments. 

The final strategic stage in how the organisation can achieve the identified competitive advantage is an implementation plan. The tactics of how the strategy will be carried out are created and documented. The means to carry out the tactics will be listed, and milestones draw up to measure progress.  

If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.

Yogi Berra

Many companies do not take the time to think through these stages. Simply documenting where they want to go, where they are now, and a plan to move from point a to point b can dramatically improve performance. 

Strategic management process

  1. Mission & Objectives
  2. Analysis
    1. Internal
    2. External
  3. Strategic Choice
  4. Strategic Implementation
  5. Competitive Advantage 

Mission, vision, and strategy

I am currently working on an updated plan for how the university will move forward with flexible learning. The last fourteen months have dramatically accelerated the plans I drew up in 2019, and so it is time to be more creative and ambitious. 

Thankfully we put into place three separate statements to help generate an online learning strategy: 

  1. Mission Statement – Who my team are, what we provide, who we serve, the benefits we deliver, and what is important to us.
  2. Vision Statement – A previously ambitious and unique idea of the university we want to create.
  3. Value Statement: Our beliefs about how work should be done, our standards, culture, and aspirations.

The mission statement has remained the same; we exist to move the university to a hyper-flexible delivery model that uses technology to redefine the student experience. The vision statement, however, like most universities strategies, has changed dramatically. The forced move to online learning has moved us past ambitious five-year plans and started creating conversations about what is possible, what is desirable, what works, and what future we want to make. 

The external work has moved forward too. Suppliers like Microsoft and the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) vendors have developed the tools available to universities, making them easier to use and adding functions to support emerging practice. The demand for online learning has grown as people have spent more time at home and working and collaborating via a computer screen; their views on learning have changed.

There are three main tasks for the vision statement:

  • Consolidate the existing flexible delivery.
  • Build on that good practice to make it better; more interactive, personalised, and accessible.
  • Think up what game changers might look like in the new university landscape.

Writing a strategy is about creating a plan for how we deliver a mission and a vision. If you have not updated these three documents recently, it might be time to start designing the new normal.