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Your Strategy needs a Strategy- Reflection Essay

A business strategy is a well-documented plan on how an organization is setting out to implement their
idea and achieve their goals. Having a well-defined strategy is extremely crucial for the long-term success
of an enterprise and crafting the right kind of strategy is the heart and soul of managing a business and
conquering the market. The reason why having a strategy is so important is because it gives the
management time to analyse their performance, assess what their strengths, weaknesses and capabilities
are, and if these capabilities are able to help them grow, as per expectations. Importantly, we can cannot
apply the one size fits all rule when it comes to formulating strategy of various organizations across
diverse sectors. For example, the oil industry is a mature industry where predictability is the norm.
Whereas, the internet software industry is an ever-evolving, dynamic one, in which an oil industry
strategist would prove to be a misfit. Companies in such dissimilar industries with such diverse
macroeconomics at play, should ideally be planning, developing and executing their strategy is different
ways, but unfortunately a BCG survey of top executives from 120 companies around the world working in
10 major industry sectors show this is not implemented always in real situations, and a predictable
approach is the norm.
So what are the major factors that should influence the strategy a company must follow? Deciding on the
best strategy for a particular business begins with understanding the business environment:
Predictability: the extent to which the future of the environment can be forecast, encapsulating demand,
corporate performance, competitive dynamics and market expectations.
Malleability: the extent to which the environment can be changed or shaped by the actions of
companies individually or collectively.

The accuracy with which a company assesses its environment along these dimensions will aid in
determining the most appropriate strategic style. Putting these two variables into a matrix, four broad
strategic styles emerge:
1. Classical: Predictable and immutable environments.
Typical industries: Oil & Gas, IT Services, Tobacco, Commercial Banks, Beverages, Pharmaceuticals,
Automobiles, Consumer Finance, Distributors.
For example, strategists and analysts at ExxonMobil devising upstream oil-extraction plans 10 years into
the future and downstream production-capacity plans 5 years in advance.
2. Adaptive: Unpredictable and immutable environments.
Typical industries: Textiles, Apparels & Luxury Goods, Construction Materials, Computers,
Semiconductors, Capital Markets, Biotechnology.
For example, Spanish fashion retail giant Zara can design, manufacture and ship garments to its stores in
two to three weeks in comparison to the industry average of four to six months. It does so by having a
flexible supply chain and by maintaining strong ties with its external suppliers, who work in tandem with
its designers and marketers.
3. Shaping: Unpredictable and mutable environments.
Typical industries: Internet Software & Services, Airlines, Metals & Mining, Machinery, Construction &
Engineering, Auto Components, Marine, Household Durables, Health Care Technology.
For example, Facebook strategists opening up its networking platform to outside developers, thus
attracting an unprecedented number of applications to its site, thereby overtaking the incumbent
Myspace and eventually becoming the worlds most popular social networking website.
4. Visionary: Predictable and mutable environments.
Typical industries: Containers & Packaging, Chemicals, Media, Insurance, Food Products, Aerospace &
Defense, Health Care Equipment & Supplies, Electric Utilities.

For example, UPS strategists anticipating the rise in Internet Commerce in the coming years, set up a
cross-functional committee drawn from IT, sales, marketing and finance which culminated in the decision
to invest close to a billion dollars a year to integrate its core package-tracking operations with web
providers and making strategic acquisitions to expand its global delivery capacity. As a result of this
focused strategy, UPS snapped up the lions share of 60% of the e-commerce delivery market.
Hence, by understanding the exact environment under which their industry falls under, strategists at firms
can chart a unique trajectory for the long-term success of their firm. As a student in business school, this
article has helped me open my eyes to a plethora of possibilities and inherent successes by just being able
to categorize my industry in terms of predictability and malleability and accordingly formulate business
strategies.
I most recently worked in the machinery industry. My company was involved in the manufacture and
fabrication of heavy machinery and equipment for the salt industry. Based on my understanding of the
essay, this industry falls under the umbrella of an unpredictable, yet mutable environment. Hence, as a
partner at my firm, I must embrace the tenets of developing a Shaping strategy, in order to take my
company above and beyond. In this industry, flexibility is paramount, very little time and energy is spent
on making elaborate predictions and the strategy is implemented as a portfolio of experiments. I as a
shaper, must focus beyond the boundaries of my own company and rally around myself, a formidable
ecosystem of clients, suppliers, sub-contractors and collaborators in order to re-define the market,
standard business practices and I should most importantly invest more resources into the research and
development of the existing technology. Implementing these strategies into the running of my company
would be a true test of my ability and leadership. A coherent understanding of this article will also help in
the future if I decide to switch to another industry.
However, I feel that this article takes a slightly narrow view to the strategy-making process. According to
me, in reality, executives at a firm have to adopt more than one strategic style at a particular time. It is

actually a combination of two or more strategic styles that will yield optimum success. As the company
goes through different stages of its life cycle, accordingly the strategy implemented must also be altered.
Also, not much information has been provided regarding the advantages that a company stands to gain,
if they indeed follow the right strategy based on their industry. It is mentioned that on an average, the
three-year total shareholder returns of companies that use the right style were 4% to 8% higher than the
returns of those that do not. This seems like insufficient data for me to be convinced about the importance
of adopting the right style of strategy.
One contradiction that I noticed is that according to the article, Automobile industry falls into a classical
style of strategy. However, the article cites the example of Ratan Tata, former chairperson of Tata Group
as the visionary behind the ultra-affordable Nano automobile.
In conclusion, formulating the right kind of strategy are core management functions. Whether a company
does well or tanks at the marketplace is directly attributable to the caliber of the companys strategy and
its understanding of its environment. A winning strategy takes into account a companys external situation
and its internal resources and competitive capabilities.