Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Two Levels of Strategy

Very interesting and I think critical to understanding the role of the corporation to the businesses.

"The word strategy has many modifiers in the business world: portfolio, diversification, differentiation, growth, market share, shareholder value, customer, brand, product, pricing, cost, manufacturing, supply chain, channel, distribution, sourcing, IT, digital, people, communications, investor relations, and M&A among them. All of these forms of strategy are variations of the two most fundamental types: corporate and business. Typically, corporate strategy is seen as being relevant to a company as a whole, whereas business strategy is reserved for the individual businesses within a company.
But things get more complex when you consider the most fundamental questions that a strategy needs to answer:
1. Who is the target customer?
2. What is the value proposition for this target customer?
3. What are the essential capabilities required to deliver that value proposition?
In considering a company operating in multiple businesses (think Siemens, UBS, Unilever, Reliance, and Saudi Aramco), these questions are difficult to answer for the company as a whole — if not meaningless. They can only really be answered for each of the individual businesses within a company. Does this mean that a company’s corporate strategy is just a rollup and integration of the strategies for its individual businesses? No, not at all. A corporate strategy adds two more critical questions to the list:
4. What businesses should the company be in?
5. How should the company add value to those businesses?
Adding value to the businesses means contributing to the ability of each business to outperform its peers. In other words, the individual businesses should be able to draw on some distinctive capabilities that are available to all parts of the enterprise, and that give the businesses an edge in their own target markets. For PepsiCo, direct store delivery is one of these enterprise-wide capabilities; corporate sales and marketing is one for IBM; General Electric has a distinctive capability in developing general managers; and so on."

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