IT'S THE STRATEGY, STUPID!
by Tony Mueller, Business Analyst, Wellington, New Zealand
I would like to give you my opinion about some of your comments in your introduction letter. Powershift by Alvin Toffler: His view that the greatest command over information is now the key power factor is simply false. Indeed, there was a shift from the control of money to information some years or decades ago. However, unnoticed to many another powershift from information to strategy has occurred a few years ago. Consider there's a lot of information around. In fact, more than ever before. This actually causes a problem because too much information leads to confusion, indecision, stagnation and finally destruction.
Too much information means that our information age has produced too many conflicting pieces of information, too many things to be aware of, too many once-in-a-life-time opportunities. The individual person becomes easily overwhelmed by these large amounts of information and often conflicting ones, which in turn produce a mass of ideas and plans in his own head. One idea opposes the other and in the end little gets done or some halfhearted action may be taken which usually does not lead to success.
In the some letter you referred to the Bill Gates/Microsoft example. In my opinion Bill Gates is a typical example for the shift towards a strategic approach. He realized there was a problem for users dealing with PCs. He focused his effort and attention to overcome this obstacle and succeeded. In turn the market or better the target group rewarded his efforts generously.
This happened at a time when most of his competitors were and most of them are still focused to improve mainly the technical performance and aspects of PCs. The strategy in this case was to focus on the main obstacle from the viewpoint of his customers / target groups. Therefore Microsoft was able to achieve with comparatively little effort and resources more than its competitors at that time.
Unfortunately for Microsoft they are now abandoning their original strategy and are trying to please everyone, i.e., venturing into different business areas. This will slow down their progress, profitability and success and will allow their competitors to gain ground.
To summarize, the one who develops the best strategy for a market or any other situation will become the most powerful player.
Over three thousand people have now read our introductory materials. Probably, several hundred thousand have read advertisements in which I mention Toffler's Powershift. Yet, Mr. Mueller is the first one to indicate that strategy is the key. This tells us that most people are blind to strategy. Our principals spend about 10 hours a week devising better strategies for all levels of our operation. If the success we've achieved so far can be ascribed to a single factor, it's almost certainly strategy. Yet, nowhere in our writings have we identified strategy as a key factor. Although we've "practiced strategy," we've been blind to strategy as a key skill everyone needs to develop.
How many "success books" identify the ability to strategize as a key success factor? How many people think every day about how they might improve their strategies? How many people obediently follow the strategies of others? How many people think for themselves?
There's a huge opportunity to teach strategy. It could be that the first topic the Personal Power Institutes (we've been talking about) should address is teaching strategy.
What is Strategy?
My Webster's defines strategy as:
- The science and art of employing the political, economic, psychological, and military forces of a nation or a group of nations to afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war;
- The science and art of military command exercised to meet the enemy in combat under advantageous conditions;
- A careful plan or method;
- The art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal.
The Elements of Meta-Strategy
Before describing strategy, we need to look at "meta-strategy." "Meta" means beyond or behind. We need a meta-strategy to improve our strategies:
- You can develop the habit of constantly asking yourself the question: "How can I improve my strategy?" When you read the newspaper or anything else, you ask: "How can I apply this to improve my strategies?" Same for TV, movies, etc.
- You can habitually question your own strategies, as well as others.' No matter how good a strategy is, it can always be improved. There's no perfect strategy.
- Your "philosophy of life" or basic set of values is a meta-strategy.
- You can get into the habit of observing the results you produce, observing what you do that works and doesn't work, and how your actions relate to the results you produce.
- You can examine your paradigms (world views) in areas such as freedom, government, power, responsibility, blame, money & profit, integrity, marketing, etc. Do these paradigms aid or hinder the efficacy of your strategies? (In this respect you may want to read: (1) Future Edge: Discovering the New Paradigms of Success by Joel Arthur Barker; (2) Horse Sense: The Key to Success is Finding a Horse to Ride by Al Ries & Jack Trout; (3) Strategy of the Dolphin by Dudley Lynch & Paul L. Kordis; (4) How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne; (5) All of Robert Ringer's books; (6) Our materials on personal power and success. Do your paradigms make you a master of your destiny or a victim of government and other evils? In reading any of the above, ask: "What limiting paradigms do the authors suffer from?"
- Develop ways to do everything you do more consciously. How do I make decisions? What goes through my mind before I make a decision? How do I decide whether information is useful or true? What goes through my mind before I decide? After I've made a decision, how much effort do I devote to defending the decision and proving that it was right?
- Watch some TV talk shows like Montel Williams. Observe the automatic bicameral stage 2 behavior (See the article: How To Increase Your Consciousness). Observe the blame and "make-wrong." Observe the victims. Observe the paradigms of both professional counselors and participants. Which of these paradigms do you apply or suffer from?
- How do I choose my goals? By far the best book I know of in this respect is The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz. If you've already read any of the books and materials mentioned here, you may want to reread them with particular emphasis on what you can apply to improve your meta-strategies and strategies.
- What procedures do I use to choose my next action? What goes through my mind before I choose? Do my actions further my goals?
- How do I choose friends or people to work with? What goes through my mind as I make these choices?
- What principles can I discover and formulate to improve my meta-strategies and strategies?
- Operate in such a way that others can help you improve your paradigms and strategies. You need to set it up so any "Tony Mueller" can let you know what you need to improve and you'll listen to him.
- We all have certain core beliefs about ourselves and the world. They determine whether we are winners or losers, lovable or unlovable, masters of our destiny, or victims, etc. These core beliefs may be very difficult to become aware of and change.
- Repetition. We have short-term memory and long-term memory. Much useful information gets into our short-term memory, but is lost before it becomes long-term. Particularly our meta-strategies need to become long-term. Repetition is necessary for that. In certain key areas, one needs to hear the same information every day for at least 21 days, before it becomes permanent long-term memory.
- Everything can be questioned and improved.
- The missing function. If I want to get from A to Z, I can ask: "What are ALL the things I need to do to proceed and arrive at my destination? We can extend this principle: "What's the missing strategy?"
The Elements of Strategy
The definition of strategy is "how to..." (whatever). Following is a partial list of areas where you could develop or improve your strategies:
If all the above seems a little overwhelming, you need a meta-strategy to start somewhere - and a meta-strategy to follow through! It should be worth your while to spend at least several hours a week on improving your strategies.
- Recognizing what resources you have available and how you can further develop them.
- Spotting opportunities, choosing which to exploit, and determining the resources to apply to exploit these opportunities.
- Evaluating the risk of attempting to exploit these opportunities.
- General risk analysis.
- Acquiring additional resources to exploit opportunities.
- Developing your personal resource network (Read Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want by Barbara Sher.)
- Creating alliances.
- Identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and those of any enemies you may have.
- Deciding where and how to defend and attack.
- Deciding whether to "put all your eggs in one basket" or to diversify.
- The small-step-progression principle.
- Cost/benefit analysis.
- Money and cash flow management.
- Prioritizing and time management.
- Prediction and forecasting.
- Identifying important trends.
- Marketing plans.
- Positioning (read Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries & Jack Trout).
- Applying the power-message principle.
- Developing leverage to maximize the utilization of resources.
- When to be flexible and when to be unbending.
- When to persist and when to change direction.
- How to increase power by accelerating the speed of particle flow.
- How to increase power by improving quality.
- Observe the psychology of a competitor, opponent, or enemy and devise strategies to deal with it.
- Developing thinking skills.
- Personal responsibility.
- Problems and solutions.
(A societal solution has four broad aspects: (1) Ideas; (2) Ideas converted into products and services; (3) Marketing and distribution of the products or services; (4) Implementation of the ideas. You get some good ideas; you write a book; you get it published, marketed, and distributed; but it's no solution if the readers can't, won't, don't implement the ideas. Repetition is the missing key - see The Elements of Meta-Strategy above.)
- Organization and management structures.
- Product and service development.
- Customer service.
- Personnel policies.
- Legally and elegantly exiting from coercive government institutions.
- Organizing personal affairs for maximum protection.
- Creating alternative voluntary institutions.
Freedom Technology consists of the practical knowledge methods, and skills to live free; the street-smart know-how to outwit the enemy at every turn; the means to defend yourself, your income, and assets; the means to blow away the bogus power of the enemy. Freedom Technology includes the creation of alternative voluntary institutions.
Freedom Technology consists of the strategies, tactics, and logistics of practical freedom.
Comments on Strategy by James Robertson
Strategic planning is central to an efficiently designed personal and professional life, as well as to the nurturing and growth of organizations. In arranging their personal and professional lives, most people do not engage in strategic planning to any significant degree, or at all. Not all events in your life can be planned exactly, of course. In fact, in your life there is probably very little "exact certainty." Strategic planning, however, is what enables you to have a broad, flexible framework under which to operate. The exact details change from day to day; the broad structure(s) remain. We might term this "operating strategy."
A level up from this comes what we might term "general strategy" or "overall strategy." This can and should be reviewed periodically, and adjusted or changed as necessary. This applies to both individuals and organizations.
Minor daily tactical details should impede neither an individual's nor an organization's primary strategies. What happens tactically, and the relative ease or difficulty of various tactics, often influences strategic revisions at the various times you review strategy.
In organizations, blind obedience hinders strategic thinking. Nonetheless, not all personnel inside organizations need to engage in strategic thinking all of the time. Inside an organization, personnel probably operate most efficiently when given the basic framework within which to operate ("general" or "overall" strategy has been decided by others). Then, personnel are afforded an environment in which to thrive because many aspects of operational strategy can be handled by each individual. Certainly mutual review and mutual assistance are frequently needed; but many aspects of operational strategy - and most aspects of precise tactical detail - can be handled by each individual.