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Can You Say What Your Strategy Is

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Can You Say What Your Strategy Is

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  • Jan. 2012
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It’s a dirty little secret: Most executives cannot articulate the objective, scope, and advantage of their business in a simple statement. If they can’t, neither can anyone else.

Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?
by David J. Collis and Michael G. Rukstad

Reprint R0804E

It’s a dirty little secret: Most executives cannot articulate the objective, scope, and advantage of their business in a simple statement. If they can’t, neither can anyone else.

Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?
by David J. Collis and Michael G. Rukstad

COPYRIGHT © 2008 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Can you summarize your company’s strategy in 35 words or less? If so, would your colleagues put it the same way? It is our experience that very few executives can honestly answer these simple questions in the affirmative. And the companies that those executives work for are often the most successful in their industry. One is Edward Jones, a St. Louis–based brokerage firm with which one of us has been involved for more than 10 years. The fourth-largest brokerage in the United States, Jones has quadrupled its market share during the past two decades, has consistently outperformed its rivals in terms of ROI through bull and bear markets, and has been a fixture on Fortune’s list of the top companies to work for. It’s a safe bet that just about every one of its 37,000 employees could express the company’s succinct strategy statement: Jones aims to “grow to 17,000 financial advisers by 2012 [from about 10,000 today] by offering trusted and convenient face-to-face financial advice to conservative individual investors who delegate their finanharvard business review • april 2008

cial decisions, through a national network of one-financial-adviser offices.” Conversely, companies that don’t have a simple and clear statement of strategy are likely to fall into the sorry category of those that have failed to execute their strategy or, worse,...