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Published: November 18, 2023

Developing winning Strategies: “Play to Win, not just to Compete!”

The C-Suite has the responsibility to create, develop, and implement winning strategies that an entire organization can align with and execute with ruthless vigor and conviction.  When properly done, these processes and powerful strategies can lead to global dominance in the industry.

So, why do some companies succeed spectacularly where so many others fail?

  1. Their people aren’t harder working, more dedicated, bolder, or luckier than everyone else.
  2. But, rather their way of thinking about the choices they make is very different.

They have a clear and defined approach to strategy, a thinking process that enables individual managers to effectively make clearer and harder choices.  That process, and the approach to strategy that underpins it, is what makes the difference.

Strategy is a set of choices about winning, defining what you will and won’t do!

It is an integrated set of choices that uniquely positions your company in its industry to create sustainable advantage and superior value relative to the competition.

Simply put, STRATEGY is the answer to these five interrelated questions:

  1. What is your winning aspiration?  The purpose of the enterprise: our guiding and motivating aspirations.
  2. Where will you play?  A playing field where you can achieve that aspiration.  The right playing field: Where we will compete; our geographies, product categories, consumer/customer segments, channels, and vertical stages of production.
  3. How will you win? The way that you win on the chosen playing field.  The Unique right to win:  Our value proposition, our competitive advantage, must be proven and documented.
  4. What capabilities must be in place?  The set and configuration of capabilities required to win in the chosen way: Our culture, people, reinforcing activities, and our specific configuration.
  5. What management systems are required?  The systems and measures that enable the capabilities and support the choices.  The support systems: Systems, structures, and measures required to support our choices, and provide management on impact of choices made.

These choices and the relationship between them can be understood as a reinforcing cascade, with choices at the top of the cascade setting the context for the choices below, and choices at the bottom influencing and refining the choices above.

It is a fluid process of interrelationships.  In large companies, there are multiple levels of choices and inter-connected cascades.  At PepsiCo, for instance, you would likely see there is a brand-level strategy that articulates the five choices for a brand such as Pepsi Cola, Gatorade, Tropicana Pure Premium OJ, Frito-Lay Corn Chips, or Quaker Oats Nutrition bars.  There is a category strategy that covers multiple related products, like Soft Drinks, Sports Drinks, 100% Juices, Orange Juice, or Nutrition bars.  There is a sector strategy that covers multiple categories, for example, Good for You Juices or Meal Supplements, instant gratification Snacks, and refreshing Soft Drinks.  And finally, there is a strategy at the company level, too.   Each strategy influences and is influenced by the choices above and below it; company-level where-to-play choices, for instance, guide choices at the sector level, which in turn affect the category-level and brand-level choices.  And the brand-level choices influence the category-level choices, which influence the sector and company-level choices.  The result is a set of nested cascades that cover the full organization and choices happen at every level of the organization.

Strategy can be created and refined at every level of the organization using the choice cascade framework.

Summing UP: The Power of Choices (committing to what you will and won’t do, pays premium returns)

A few quick bits of advice – the things you should do and should avoid doing as you apply this process of building winning strategies:

Do remember that strategy is about winning choices. It is a coordinated and integrated set of five very specific choices.  As you define your strategy, “choose what you will do and what you will not do”.  Be methodical, and fact-based, prove suppositions, and have the grit to Stay on course!

  • Do make your way through all five choices.  Don’t stop after defining winning, after choosing where to play and how to win, or even after assessing your capabilities.  All five questions must be answered if you are to create a viable, actionable, and sustainable strategy.
  • Do think of strategy as an integrative process; as you uncover insights at one stage in the cascade, you may well need to revisit choices elsewhere in the cascade.
  • Do understand that strategy happens at multiple levels in the organization.  An organization can be thought of as a set of nested cascades. Keep the other cascades in mind while working on yours.
  • Do remember that there is no one perfect strategy; find the distinctive choices that work for you.

To hone your skills in Strategy development, look back at your prior body of work, and take stock of what choices you made and the resulting impacts.   Did you make the hard call to stick to your strategic map?  Remember, Strategy is a set of choices about winning, defining “what you will and won’t do”!

It is an integrated set of choices that uniquely positions your company in its industry to create sustainable advantage and superior value relative to the competition.

Need an expert in Developing Winning Strategies? Contact Value Driven Solutions today:


author avatar
Christopher New
Chris is a seasoned senior executive with extensive P/L management and driving business transformation and growth, proficient in P/L management, product innovation, and customer engagement across various industries. His 30-year career includes leadership roles from CEO to CMO, driving double-digit growth and leveraging market opportunities. Chris holds an MS in Marketing and Economics from Cornell and a BS from the University of Massachusetts.

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