Sunday, December 11, 2011

Strategy is choosing what not to do

Strategy is making trade-offs in competing. The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. Without trade-offs, there would be no need for choice and thus no need for strategy.
— Michael Porter, “What is Strategy?”
Harvard Business Review, 1996
As an entrepreneur — with limited resources and a finite period of time before we ran out of money — this is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. It is something I emphasize in my consulting, in my business analysis and my teaching.

I don’t recall seeing the original Porter quote, but the version I normally use in class is
Choosing what to do means choosing what not to do.
Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to read Dilbert this morning. For at least a decade, I didn’t care for Scott Adams emphasizing the cynical over the insightful. But in lampooning the foolish overconfidence of the pointy head boss, he makes the point in a way that will stick with students far better than anything I’ve ever said in class.

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