Most people find it simple to generate a list of strategic opportunities that they believe would benefit their job or add value to the organization they work for. Often times, these people take their list of strategic opportunities and immediately begin the process of narrowing it down to the one opportunity they believe is most valuable. Then before taking another breath, people typically start mapping out a strategy framework for accomplishing this one opportunity they believe to be most valuable. Some readers might say that so far this process sounds like a good one to follow; the right thing to do. I say that those who have done this before have already “tripped up before getting out of the starting gate.” In fact, they began failing when they first started generating and narrowing down their list of strategic opportunities. Some people believe that they are a good judge of value and can carefully evaluate the potential opportunities. However, the true strategic value of a target should be judged by your customers, internal and/or external.
Customers are routinely neglected as we evaluate what is and isn’t strategic. But if you want a winning strategy, you must first find out what will benefit or be of high value to those who matter most. You may think you know what they want and need, both now and in the future, but how do you really know unless you ask them? Often this is a short conversation—about 10 minutes. Use this time to share your ideas and ask them if they agree with the possible strategic impact of your identified targets. Then, ask your customers if they have any ideas of new ways to add value to the product or service you provide them. Carefully observe your customer and notice which of the strategic opportunities discussed excited them. Ask your customer what sort of payoffs or outcomes they foresee as a result of the opportunities they like best. Remember to choose a target that you feel passionate about too, because a strategic target is something you will be investing your energy, resources, and time in. This 10 minute conversation will help you determine which strategic opportunity will yield a high return on your energy and time. Once you have identified a strategic area of interest, you can begin to close in on a specific target to act on.
Remember, customers take two forms, External or Internal. Both rely on you to complete a task or function, or deliver goods or services. Internal Customers are directly connected with you, through the organization. Internal Customers are perhaps the least consulted of this group when someone is trying to strategically add value. Yet, strategic opportunities that are designed for internal customer satisfaction are better able to satisfy the need of external customers (Tansuhaj, Randall, and McCullough 1991).
To achieve a winning strategy, you must first pinpoint a strategic target that is going to truly benefit those who matter most—your customer. A 10 minute discussion with your customer will verify that you have identified an opportunity that will create a big strategic impact.