Simons' Seven Strategy Questions
Improving the Implementation of Your Strategy
Imagine that you've spent several months developing your organization's strategy. You've consulted with key stakeholders and senior managers, everyone agrees with your ideas, and you feel pleased with your progress.
However, developing strategy is only the start of the process, and you need to execute it successfully. The biggest challenge, though, is dealing with common problems that can easily undermine the implementation process.
This is where Simons' Seven Strategy Questions are useful, because they help you identify these issues and take decisive action to avoid them becoming a problem.
The Seven Questions
Harvard Business School professor Robert Simons developed the Seven Strategy Questions based on 25 years of study. He then published them in the November 2010 Harvard Business Review article "Stress-Test Your Strategy: The 7 Questions to Ask."
These questions don't tell you how to develop your strategy – we're assuming that you've already done this.
Simons' seven questions are:
- Who is your primary customer?
- How do you prioritize the needs of shareholders, employees and customers with your core values?
- What critical performance variables are you tracking?
- What strategic boundaries have you set?
- How are you generating creative tension?
- How committed are your employees to helping each other?
- What strategic uncertainties keep you awake at night?
Let's look at each question in more detail.
1. "Who is Your Primary Customer?"
Your "primary customer" can be an individual or a particular group. Once you've identified this person or group, you can dedicate the majority of your resources to satisfying their needs, and you can improve your decision making by asking yourself which option is better for them.
Customers will purchase the products or services that meet their needs most effectively. So, avoid trying to appeal to everyone, and focus on a specific customer or market segment.
Consider the following questions to sharpen up your view of your primary customer:
- Who are your potential customers?
- Who do you want to serve particularly well?
- Who don't you want to serve?
- What does your primary customer value?
- How do you make sure that you provide the greatest possible value?
- Are you allocating enough resources to serving your primary customer?
- Does everyone clearly understand who your primary customer is?
2. "How Do You Prioritize the Needs of Shareholders, Employees and Customers With Your Core Values?"
Next, you should decide how to prioritize the needs of your shareholders, employees and customers. Ultimately, your organization's core values should determine who you put first, but it's easy to forget about this when you're developing strategy – for example, by prioritizing the needs of the end users you exist to serve.
Once you've prioritized the needs of a specific group, your decisions should be consistent with this choice.
However, it's important to remember that all three groups have a stake in your business's success. So, while you may choose to put the needs of one first, don't neglect the other two.
Consider the following questions...