There is no shortage of stories and anecdotes to illustrate how the best strategies can nearly always be reduced down to a brief but powerful statement and even more ink has been spilled describing the dangers of strategy statements that read like detailed action plans.
But how do you go about actually crafting — and using — a 15-word strategy statement?
My approach is based on narrative techniques. I begin by working with clients to write a story based on this template:
Once upon a time there was (insert a name who exemplifies your target customer/consumer) …. . Every day he/she (insert here his/her frustration or job to be done) …. . One day we developed (insert here the product/solution and what are actually the 2-3 things we offer or not) … . Until finally (insert here the end result for the customer/consumer compared to competition) … .
A few years ago, I facilitated a strategic innovation workshop for a swimwear manufacturer. We were trying to put together a value proposition for very occasional swimmers who don’t like to practice the sport in a pool, and whose water experience is essentially little more than paddling in the sea or sitting in a small private pool.
We started by watching videos of these swimmers, from smartphone footage taken by sales people visiting public pools around the world that had then been posted on an internal collaboration platform, along with observations from the people taking the shots about what the swimmers seemed to find most difficult.
The workshop participants clustered the individual swimmers’ pain points into a number of categories, which they ranked along two metrics. The first metric was a product of the degree of the pain and how many swimmers experienced it and the second was a measure of actionability: could a new product or service feature resolve the problem?
With this information we designed a value proposition together, using the Blue Ocean Strategy canvas approach, on which value propositions can be compared in terms of their features. The canvas had two lines, one for the company’s proposition and one for the industry standard, so that we could see how we would differ from the competition.
With a better understanding of the pain-points of the targeted occasional swimmers and the kind of value proposition that could tempt them into the water, the workshop participants were able to build a storyline. They came up with the following narrative:
“Once upon a time there was a woman called Rosemary, who had learned and practiced only the basic swimming techniques to float and make short moves in the water. Every single time she visited a pool, she felt unease due to a perception of breathing water risk, immediate physical fatigue due to incorrect stroke movements and inconvenience related to the pool check in and out process. One day, our company developed a set of products and services that offered Rosemary all she needed to enjoy her pool experience. Finally, someone had brought joy to Rosemary’s pool experience and she moved from the gym to the water for her winter exercise.
Once we reached agreement on the strategy story, we were then able to distill from it a 15-word statement that identified the job the company had to do and for whom: “We aim to bring joy to the pool experience cycle of every swimmer, nobody excluded.”
Guided by this statement the company designed and developed a number of add-on product features, including most notably a pair of plastic fins that could be fixed on to most goggles to facilitate breathing, a big problem for most beginners. The plastic fins make it easier to breathe into the air pocket by the swimmer’s head by enhancing the bow wave from the head, thus protecting the swimmer’s mouth and nose from splashes and water drops. Because the swimmer struggles less to breathe, she can concentrate on her stroke and swim better, and generally have a more comfortable pool experience.
The narrative exercise of creating a clear strategy statement had helped the workshop understand what kind of value proposition the company needed to create in order to attract a new class of customers and resulted in a clear strategy statement that both coordinated people internally and positioned the company attractively in the market.
(Source : Alessandro Di Fiore, Harvard Business Review)