Why you should do strategic research to define and align strategy
I’ve always loved this ad. It’s for The Guardian and vividly demonstrates the dangers of not seeing the whole picture. If you have not seen it, give it a watch. It’s 30 seconds long.
I love it for its simplicity, but also because it applies to life in general. Without the whole picture you can get things very wrong.
Here’s an example. Flying back from holiday last month, I sat next to a fella who annoyed me from the moment he sat down. Constantly scrolling his phone, scrawling notes on a pad and he wore a mask. The mask screamed ‘don’t even think about speaking to me’, extreme caution and uber wokeness. We didn’t share a word over three hours in the air. I could sense the tension.
The next day, bizarrely, he sat next to me in my local pub. I couldn’t resist speaking to him and found out that he was visiting his 92-year-old mother in law who he’d come to look after and the mask was about protecting her. His notes were his care notes.
Ahem. I hadn’t seen the whole picture; I’d made a hasty misjudgement by not getting the context.
Seeing the whole picture in business is critical. The wrong decisions can be catastrophic either in missed opportunity or unseen threat and we looked at this issue in our latest webinar, where we examined the difference between and use of ‘Strategic Research’ and ‘Market Research’ .
Our webinar centred on the tale of Bob and Alice, both looking to open a bakery. They did their research but approached it differently; Bob went straight for the jugular and did some market research on what people wanted. Unsurprisingly, Bob’s market research suggested that he went down the traditional route; classic pastries that appealed to a broad customer base. He did well. At first.
Alice took a different approach. She did strategic research. She analysed the overall business and economic landscape, social and cultural change, market trends and the competitive environment. She did consumer research delving into the sub-conscious, consumer behaviour, the wider competitive landscape and assessed her findings in the context of her business ambition and capability and the development of the brand. Alice identified the growth in eco-conscious consumers and saw a gap for a bakery based on sustainable produce without compromising on decadence.
Alice’s strategic research helped her work out more than ‘what people want’. She was able to create a business strategy, if she hadn’t done that, she would be stumbling around in the tactics unable to see the horizon and, more importantly, not knowing how to get there.
Turning insight into strategy though can be a murky old game often overly complicated by nonsense terms and reams of words and that don’t help much. One of the most successful structures for turning strategic research into a business strategy is the VMOST framework.
Each of the letters in the VMOST stands for a different element and their order is intentional as each element leads to the next; Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics.
The vision is the state that your organisation is aiming at . Or, in other words, the ‘why’ that sits at the core of the organisation. The second element is Mission which is ‘the role your organisation is going to take to make the vision a reality’. Without the Strategic approach to research it would be impossible to develop a vision and mission; the big picture is needed.
With the Vision and Mission in place, you can develop some objectives. Again, this requires a whole host of different insights gathered internally and externally. The insights then inform the five or six strategies that are needed to guide the business. In Alice’s case, one of these strategies might be to become much more connected to the local community, she might call this strategy ‘Community Champion’. To complete her VMOST, tactics are developed to deliver the strategies.
Simple. But only possible with strategic research which helps you see the whole picture; internally and externally in the context of the business ambition, resources and capabilities and with an eye on the future as well as the present. Only then will you be see the whole picture, and only then can you turn vision in reality.