What We Don't Do
Strategy is hard and becomes increasingly important as companies grow and scale.
One thing I advise teams to focus on when they go through a strategy exercise is to identify the things they won’t do.
One way to do this is to make a list of all the things people inside (and outside) the company are encouraging the company to work on.
Then break that list into two lists – the things you will do and the things you won’t do. This should be a group exercise, iterative, and ideally done on a whiteboard or some other similar tool.
The timeline for this list of projects doesn’t matter a lot. It could be for the next year or it could be for the next three to five years.
This exercise identifies the things that are most important versus the things you would like to do but can’t get to right now.
And this process helps solidify the strategy.
I think a company, at least a company that is smaller than 1000 people, should not try to do more than three big things a year. These big things can include a number of smaller things in them. So you might have a list of ten things you want to do this year. If you can organize those ten things into three big focus areas, then that works. If there are literally ten big things you want to do this year, I think that is way too many.
The most successful companies I work with have a clear sense of Mission/Vision>Strategy>Priorities that guides the company quarter to quarter, year to year, and aligns everyone on the team around where the focus is and why.
Saying no to things that are off mission, off strategy, or are not a priority right now is critical to getting this right.
I say this as an investor who has seen his ideas end up on the no list way more often than the yes list. I understand why that is and accept it. I would rather work with a company that knows where it is going and why than one that blindly listens to its investors.