Tag: Strategy

The “Ink Spot” Strategy That Propels Wal-Mart And Counterinsurgency

I thought this was interesting. Here is Sam Walton, in his own words, detailing the Wal-Mart Strategy from the earliest days. What was novel at the time is now a somewhat common way for businesses to expand. It’s also used in the military as part of an “ink spot” strategy.

But before we get to that, here is Sam Walton writing in Made in America:

Now that we were out of debt, we could really do something with our key strategy, which was simply to put good-sized discount stores into little one-horse towns which everybody else was ignoring. In those days, Kmart wasn’t going to towns below 50,000, and even Gibson’s wouldn’t go to towns much smaller than 10,000 or 12,000. We knew our formula was working even in towns smaller than 5,000 people, and there were plenty of those towns out there for us to expand into. When people want to simplify the Wal-Mart story, that’s usually how they sum up the secret of our success: “Oh, they went into small towns when nobody else would.” And a long time ago, when we were first being noticed, a lot of folks in the industry wrote us off as a bunch of country hicks who had stumbled onto this idea by a big accident.

Maybe it was an accident, but that strategy wouldn’t have worked at all if we hadn’t come up with a method for implementing it. That method was to saturate a market area by spreading out, then filling in. In the early growth years of discounting, a lot of national companies with distribution systems already in place— Kmart, for example— were growing by sticking stores all over the country. Obviously, we couldn’t support anything like that.

But while the big guys were leapfrogging from large city to large city, they became so spread out and so involved in real estate and zoning laws and city politics that they left huge pockets of business out there for us. Our growth strategy was born out of necessity, but at least we recognized it as a strategy pretty early on. We figured we had to build our stores so that our distribution centers, or warehouses, could take care of them, but also so those stores could be controlled. We wanted them within reach of our district managers, and of ourselves here in Bentonville, so we could get out there and look after them. Each store had to be within a day’s drive of a distribution center.

We saturated northwest Arkansas. We saturated Oklahoma. We saturated Missouri. We went from Neosho to Joplin, to Monett and Aurora, to Nevada and Belton, to Harrisonville, and then on to Fort Scott and Olathe in Kansas —and so on. Sometimes we would jump over an area, like when we opened store number 23 in Ruston, Louisiana, and we didn’t have a thing in south Arkansas, which is between us and Ruston. So then we started back -filling south Arkansas. In those days we didn’t really plan for the future. We just felt like we could keep rolling these stores out this way, and they would keep working, in Tennessee, or Kansas, or Nebraska— wherever we decided to go. But we did try to think ahead some when it came to the cities. We never planned on actually going into the cities. What we did instead was build our stores in a ring around a city— pretty far out— and wait for the growth to come to us. That strategy worked practically everywhere. We started early with Tulsa, putting stores in Broken Arrow and Sand Springs. Around Kansas City, we built in Warrensburg, Belton, and Grandview on the Missouri side of town and in Bonner Springs and Leavenworth across the river in Kansas. We did the same thing in Dallas.

This saturation strategy had all sorts of benefits beyond control and distribution. From the very beginning, we never believed in spending much money on advertising, and saturation helped us to save a fortune in that department. When you move like we did from town to town in these mostly rural areas, word of mouth gets your message out to customers pretty quickly without much advertising. When we had seventy-five stores in Arkansas, seventy-five in Missouri, eighty in Oklahoma, whatever, people knew who we were, and everybody except the merchants who weren’t discounting looked forward to our coming to their town. By doing it this way, we usually could get by with distributing just one advertising circular a month instead of running a whole lot of newspaper advertising. We’ve never been big advertisers, and, relative to our size today, we still aren’t. Just like today, we became our own competitors. In the Springfield, Missouri, area, for example, we had forty stores within 100 miles. When Kmart finally came in there with three stores, they had a rough time going up against our kind of strength.

So for the most part, we just started repeating what worked, stamping out stores cookie-cutter style. The only decision we had to make was what size format to put in what market. We had five different store sizes—running from about 30,000 to 60,000 square feet— and we would hardly ever pass up any market because it was too small. I had traveled so much myself looking at competitors in the variety store business that I had a good feel for the kind of potential in these communities. Bud and I knew what we wanted in the way of locations. Like so many of the ideas that have made our company work from the beginning, we’re still more or less following this same strategy, although today we’ve moved into some cities outright. But I think our main real estate effort should be directed at getting out in front of expansion and letting the population build out to us.

A lot of companies are now trying to do similar things.

Interestingly, something similar came up in General Stanley McChrystal’s memoir My Share of the Task:

The strategy was neither new nor guaranteed to work. It was a version of the “ink spot” approach French General Lyautey made famous in Madagascar and Morocco and one often adopted in counterinsurgency campaigns of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The concept called for providing secure zones inside which the population could be protected, governed, and allowed to conduct economic activity free from insurgent pressure. The theory held that as people were free to live their lives, this would enhance the government’s legitimacy and strength. And as these domains of government control expanded— like inkblots seeping on a page— they would conjoin. The United States’ counterinsurgency doctrine, which outlined the steps of “clear, hold, and build,” was a manifestation of this approach. That summer, we added “sustain” as a fourth tenet. Success in counterinsurgency was less dependent upon the brilliance of the strategy— the concept is not that hard to understand— than it was on the execution. Counterinsurgency is easy to prescribe, difficult to perform.

16 Leadership Lessons from a Four Star General

"We like to equate leaders with values we admire, but the two can be separate and distinct."
“We like to equate leaders with values we admire, but the two can be separate and distinct.”

Say what you want about General Stanley McChrystal and the Rolling Stone article that led to his premature retirement from the military he spent his life serving but I could hardly put down his memoir: My Share of the Task.

McChrystal’s life was “a series of unplanned detours, unanticipated challenges, and unexpected opportunities.” More by luck than design, he ended up being part of events that will loom large in history.

While the book was entirely fascinating, I was most interested in what McChrystal had to say about a lifetime spent in leadership roles in an evolving force. Through the stories we see not only how he leads, but how changing circumstances led to him changing.

When I read the book, I couldn’t help but see parts of my life through the lens of leadership: both mine personally and what I witness in companies around the world. Leadership is tough and there are few better teachers than McChrystal. I know I learned and internalized a lot reading this book.

I’ll excerpt some of his obvious lessons below but the full book is worth reading in its entirety.

1. Leadership is the single biggest reason for success or failure.

So, after a lifetime, what had I learned about leadership? Probably not enough. But I saw enough for me to believe it was the single biggest reason organizations succeeded or failed. It dwarfed numbers, technology, ideology, and historical forces in determining the outcome of events. I used to tell junior leaders that the nine otherwise identical parachute infantry battalions of the 82nd Airborne Division ranged widely in effectiveness, the disparity almost entirely a function of leadership.

“Switch just two people— the battalion commander and command sergeant major—from the best battalion with those of the worst, and within ninety days the relative effectiveness of the battalions will have switched as well,” I’d say. I still believe I was correct.

2. Leadership is difficult to measure.

Yet leadership is difficult to measure and often difficult even to adequately describe. I lack the academic bona fides to provide a scholarly analysis of leadership and human behavior. So I’ll simply relate what, after a lifetime of being led and learning to lead, I’ve concluded.

Leadership is the art of influencing others. It differs from giving a simple order or managing in that it shapes the longer-term attitudes and behavior of individuals and groups. George Washington’s tattered army persisted to ultimate victory. Those troops displayed the kind of effort that can never be ordered— only evoked. Effective leaders stir an intangible but very real desire inside people. That drive can be reflected in extraordinary courage, selfless sacrifice, and commitment.

3. Leadership is neither good nor evil.

We like to equate leaders with values we admire, but the two can be separate and distinct. Self-serving or evil intent motivated some of the most effective leaders I saw, like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In the end, leadership is a skill that can be used like any other, but with far greater effect.

4. Leaders take us to where we’d otherwise not go.

Although Englishmen rushing into the breach behind Henry V is a familiar image, leaders whose personal example or patient persuasion causes dramatic changes in otherwise inertia-bound organizations or societies are far more significant. The teacher who awakens and encourages in students a sense of possibility and responsibility is, to me, the ultimate leader.

5. Success is rarely the work of a single leader.

… leaders work best in partnership with other leaders. In Iraq in 2004, I received specific direction to track Zarqawi and bring him to justice. But it was the collaboration of leaders below me, inside TF 714, that built the teams, relentlessly hunted, and ultimately destroyed his lethal network.

6. Leaders are empathetic.

The best leaders I’ve seen have an uncanny ability to understand, empathize, and communicate with those they lead. They need not agree or share the same background or status in society as their followers, but they understand their hopes, fears, and passions. Great leaders intuitively sense, or simply ask, how people feel and what resonates with them. At their worst, demigods like Adolf Hitler manipulate the passions of frustrated populations into misguided forces. But empathy can be remarkably positive when a Nelson Mandela reshapes and redirects the energy of a movement away from violence and into constructive nation-building.

7. Leadership is not popularity.

For soldiers, the choice between popularity and effectiveness is ultimately no choice at all. Soldiers want to win; their survival depends upon it. They will accept, and even take pride in, the quirks and shortcomings of a leader if they believe he or she can produce success.

8. The best leaders are genuine.

I found soldiers would tolerate my being less of a leader than I hoped to be, but they would not forgive me being less than I claimed to be. Simple honesty matters.

9. Leaders can be found at any rank and at any age.

I often found myself led by soldiers many levels junior to me, and I was the better for it. Deferring to the expertise and skills of the leader best suited to any given situation requires enough self-confidence to subjugate one’s ego, but it signals a strong respect for the people with whom one serves.

10. Charisma is not leadership.

Personal gifts like intellect or charisma help. But neither are required nor enough to be a leader.

Physical appearance, poise, and outward self-confidence can be confused with leadership—for a time. I saw many new lieutenants arrive to battalions and fail to live up to the expectations their handsome, broad-shouldered look generated. Conversely, I saw others overcome the initial doubts created by small stature or a squeaky voice. It took time and enough interaction with followers, but performance usually became more important than the advantages of innate traits.

Later in my career, I encountered some figures who had learned to leverage superficial gifts so effectively that they appeared to be better leaders than they were. It took me some time and interaction —often under the pressure of difficult situations—before I could determine whether they possessed those bedrock skills and qualities that infantry platoons would seek to find and assess in young sergeants and lieutenants. Modern media exacerbate the challenge of sorting reality from orchestrated perception.

11. Leaders walk a fine line between self-confidence and humility.

Soldiers want leaders who are sure of their ability to lead the team to success but humble enough to recognize their limitations. I learned that it was better to admit ignorance or fear than to display false knowledge or bravado. And candidly admitting doubts or difficulties is key to building confidence in your honesty. But expressing doubts and confidence is a delicate balance. When things look their worst, followers look to the leader for reassurance that they can and will succeed.

12. People are born; leaders are made.

I was born the son of a leader with a clear path to a profession of leadership. But whatever leadership I later possessed, I learned from others. I grew up in a household of overt values, many of which hardened in me only as I matured. Although history fascinated me, and mentors surrounded me, the overall direction and key decisions of my life and career were rarely impacted by specific advice, or even a particularly relevant example I’d read or seen. I rarely wondered What would Nelson, Buford, Grant, or my father have done? But as I grew, I was increasingly aware of the guideposts and guardrails that leaders had set for me, often through their examples. The question became What kind of leader have I decided to be? Over time, decisions came easily against that standard, even when the consequences were grave.

13. Leaders are people, and people constantly change.

Even well into my career I was still figuring out what kind of leader I wanted to be. For many years I found myself bouncing between competing models of a hard-bitten taskmaster and a nurturing father figure— sometimes alternating within a relatively short time span. That could be tough on the people I led, and a bit unfair. They looked for and deserved steady, consistent leadership. When I failed to provide that, I gave conflicting messages that produced uncertainty and reduced the effectiveness of the team we were trying to create. As I got older, the swings between leadership styles were less pronounced and frequent as I learned the value of consistency. But even at the end I still wasn’t the leader I believed I should be.

14. Leaders are human.

They get tired, angry, and jealous and carry the same range of emotions and frailties common to mankind. Most leaders periodically display them. The leaders I most admired were totally human but constantly strove to be the best humans they could be.

15. Leaders make mistakes, and they are often costly.

The first reflex is normally to deny the failure to themselves; the second is to hide it from others, because most leaders covet a reputation for infallibility. But it’s a fool’s dream and is inherently dishonest.

16. Leadership is a choice.

Rank, authority, and even responsibility can be inherited or assigned, whether or not an individual desires or deserves them. Even the mantle of leadership occasionally falls to people who haven’t sought it. But actually leading is different. A leader decides to accept responsibility for others in a way that assumes stewardship of their hopes, their dreams, and sometimes their very lives. It can be a crushing burden, but I found it an indescribable honor.

In the end, “there are few secrets to leadership.”

It is mostly just hard work. More than anything else it requires self-discipline. Colorful, charismatic characters often fascinate people, even soldiers. But over time, effectiveness is what counts. Those who lead most successfully do so while looking out for their followers’ welfare. Self-discipline manifests itself in countless ways. In a leader I see it as doing those things that should be done, even when they are unpleasant, inconvenient, or dangerous; and refraining from those that shouldn’t, even when they are pleasant, easy, or safe.

McChrystal’s memoir is entirely worth reading.

Are tactics the same thing as strategy?

chess

Some interesting nuggets of wisdom from Pandolfini’s Ultimate Guide to Chess. Make no mistake, the insights we can draw from this book transcend the chess board.

Are tactics the same thing as strategy?

The two terms are often confused and misused. At the beginning of the lesson I described tactics as local operations. For the most part, strategy refers to an overall plan, while tactics signify the individual actions needed to bring about that plan. Strategy tends to be long-term, tactics short-term. Strategy is usually general, tactics specific.

Attack and Defence

Defenders naturally focus on responding to an attack rather than a mistake, so they sometimes allow their opponents to play erroneously with impunity. A mistake by the defender, on the other hand, is more likely to be fatal, since attackers are usually more attuned to the possibilities of such lapses, having already factored them into their plans. Attackers generally have some sense of what they aim to do ahead of time, whereas defenders aren’t quite as sure what may hit until it happens.

Are attacks and threats the same thing?

Not really. You’re attacking something if you’re in position to capture it, even if it’s not desirable to do so. You’re threatening something if you’re in position to capture or exploit it to your explicit advantage. Indeed, a threat is an attempt to gain advantage, generally by inflicting some immediate harm on the enemy position. Most commonly, a threat is designed to win material, either by capturing for nothing or by surrendering less force than you gain. So an attack can be good, but not all the time. A threat is always good, unless it’s a false threat that enables the opponent to respond in a way that improves his situation.

Eisenhower Matrix: Master Productivity and Eliminate Noise

Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t only the 34th President of the United States. Before that, he was a five-star general in the Army, responsible for command of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. He was also the Supreme Commander of NATO and President of Columbia University.

In other words, he was incredibly accomplished.

“The most urgent decisions are rarely the most important ones.”

—Dwight Eisenhower

Eisenhower’s productivity is legendary not only because of his accomplishments but also because his methods stood the test of time and worked in various situations. Through various roles and environments, Eisenhower delivered with remarkable consistency for decades.

The Eisenhower Matrix is his best-known technique. It’s a simple decision-making tool that you can draw on a napkin and start using today.

The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix has four parts, which you use to categorize the work in front of you:

  1. Important, but not urgent
  2. Urgent and important
  3. Urgent but not important
  4. Not important and not urgent

If you think about it for a second, you realize that the Eisenhower Matrix can help you not only with prioritizing what you work on today, but also with deciding which big projects to work on. The matrix helps you distinguish between what is important and what is urgent.

The Eisenhower Matrix

The Difference Between Urgent and Important

Whenever something lands on your desk, begin by breaking it down and deciding how to proceed.

The key to making the Eisenhower Matrix work is distinguishing between the urgent and the important.

Urgent tasks are time sensitive, sometimes because we have put them off until we can’t anymore. These tasks can be anything from responding to emails and returning phone calls, to realizing that you’re almost out of gas and have a report due in 20 minutes.

If we’ve put off doing an urgent task that’s also important, then when we finally tackle it, we’re probably not going to think about it as much as we had intended to or as much as we should. We’re setting ourselves up to make poor decisions.

Whether or not they used to be important, urgent tasks cause us to be reactive. We’re stressed. We’re full of anxiety. As a result, we’re rarely thinking optimally. Rushing through things often causes poor decisions that reverberate into the future, destroying our future productivity. We have to spend large amounts of time fixing problems that were caused because we were reactive and rushed.

Important tasks are more strategic. They are things we want to get done, such as launching a new product. These tasks are deliberate. We want to pay attention to them and they mean something to us. Rather than being reactive and irrational, we can, with the right planning, be thoughtful and engaged. Because we’re not reactive, we can avoid mistakes. This will free up future time.

“Being busy is a form of laziness — lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”

—Tim Ferriss

The default for most of us is to focus on what’s urgent and important. It’s only natural that we’d want to focus on the things that need to be dealt with immediately. In so doing, we tend to crowd out things that are important but not urgent.

Ask yourself when you’re going to deal with things that are important but not urgent. Ask yourself why you’re avoiding what’s important but not urgent. Are you scared of something? Are you procrastinating? Are you too distracted?

The Eisenhower Matrix in Practice

I use this matrix routinely as part of my productivity system. It’s helped me stay focused on where I want to go and not get too bogged down in things that don’t add much value.

The conventional wisdom is that you should do the next thing on your to-do list.

In practice, I use the Eisenhower productivity system differently.

First, the bar to become a task I’m even thinking about is pretty high. Rather than do it later, non-important and non-urgent tasks are usually just dropped. Occasionally they’ll bounce and I’ll pick them up again.

Important and non-urgent tasks are scheduled and generally worked on in the early afternoons.

Important and urgent tasks are worked on right away or scheduled, and are always evaluated. While I can’t plan for everything, when things get piled up here, it’s often because of a breakdown in the system — something went wrong.

The urgent and not-important tasks are usually, though not always, delegated. Delegation is a bit of a tricky subject for knowledge workers. As an advisor to several companies, I generally advocate that companies never outsource their core businesses. Among other things, doing so makes you dependent on the goodwill and competence of others. You become fragile.

The key to the way that I use this in practice is my mornings are always blocked off from 0830 to 1130. This gives me three hours to focus on important (urgent and otherwise) tasks. I don’t have to find the time to fit them in, it’s already there.

Still curious? Check out The Decision Matrix: How to Prioritize What Matters.

Footnotes

Competitive Strategy

An organization’s core capabilities are those activities that, when performed at the highest level, enable the organization to bring its where-to-play and how-to-win choices to life. They are best understood as operating as a system of reinforcing activities— a concept first articulated by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter. Porter noted that powerful and sustainable competitive advantage is unlikely to arise from any one capability (e.g., having the best sales force in the industry or the best technology in the industry), but rather from a set of capabilities that both fit with one another (i.e., that don’t conflict with one another) and actually reinforce one another (i.e., that make each other stronger than they would be alone).

For Porter, a company’s “strategic position is contained in a set of tailored activities designed to deliver it.” He calls the visual depiction of this set of activities an activity system. Since “competitive strategy is about being different … [and] means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver unique value,” an activity system must also be distinctive from the activity systems of competitors. In his landmark 1996 article “What Is Strategy?,” Porter illustrated his theory with examples from Southwest Airlines, Progressive Insurance, and The Vanguard Group, articulating the way in which each organization made distinctive choices and tailored an activity system to deliver on those choices. The activity system is a visual representation of the firm’s competitive advantage, capturing on a single page the core capabilities of the firm. Articulating a firm’s core capabilities is a vital step in the strategy process. Identifying the capabilities required to deliver on the where-to-play and how-to-win choices crystallizes the area of focus and investment for the company. It enables a firm to continue to invest in its current capabilities, to build up others, and to reduce the investment in capabilities that are not essential to the strategy.

— Via Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works. The kindle edition is only $7.99!.

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works

How Strategy Really Works is a book about strategy, written by A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, and Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management. The book covers the “transformation” of P&G under Lafley and the approach to strategy that informed it.

This approach grew out of the strategy practice at Monitor Company and subsequently became the standard process at P& G. Over the course of our careers, we worked to develop a robust framework around our strategic approach, a way to teach the concepts to others, and a methodology for bringing it to life in an organization. … Ultimately, this is a story about choices, including the choice to create a discipline of strategic thinking and strategic practice within an organization.

Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works

What is Strategy?

Really, strategy is about making specific choices to win in the marketplace. According to Mike Porter, author of Competitive Strategy, perhaps the most widely respected book on strategy ever written, a firm creates a sustainable competitive advantage over its rivals by “deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver unique value.” Strategy therefore requires making explicit choices— to do some things and not others— and building a business around those choices. In short, strategy is choice. More specifically, strategy is an integrated set of choices that uniquely positions the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage and superior value relative to the competition.

Too often CEO’s allow the urgent to cloud out the important. “When an organizational bias for action drives doing, often thinking falls by the wayside.”

Rather than develop strategies, many leaders tend to approach strategy in one of the following ineffective ways:

  1. they define strategy as a vision;
  2. they define strategy as a plan;
  3. they deny that long-term strategy is possible;
  4. they define strategy as the optimization of the status quo; and
  5. they define strategy as following best practices.

“These ineffective approaches,” Lafley and Martin argue, “are driven by a misconception of what strategy really is and a reluctance to make truly hard choices.”

While everyone wants to keep options open as long as possible, only making and acting on choices allow you “to win.” Great organization choose to win — tough choices force your hand but, if you let them, they also focus your organization.

When a company sets out to participate, rather than win, it will inevitably fail to make the tough choices and the significant investments that would make winning even a remote possibility.

Playing to win, however, means you might be wrong.

The Playbook

In our terms, a strategy is a coordinated and integrated set of five choices: a winning aspiration, where to play, how to win, core capabilities, and management systems. … The five choices make up the strategic choice cascade, the foundation of our strategy work and the core of this book.

Specifically, strategy is the answer to these five interrelated questions:

  1. What is your winning aspiration? The purpose of your enterprise, its motivating aspiration.
  2. Where will you play? A playing field where you can achieve that aspiration.
  3. How will you win? The way you will win on the chosen playing field.
  4. What capabilities must be in place? The set and configuration of capabilities required to win in the chosen way.
  5. What management systems are required? The systems and measures that enable the capabilities and support the choices.

cascade of choices

As you can imagine, in small organizations a single choice cascade might exist, whereas in large organizations multiple “levels of choices and interconnected cascades.” Nested cascades means that choice happens at almost every level in the organization.

Winning Aspirations

Aspirations are statements about the ideal future. At a later stage in the process, a company ties to those aspirations some specific benchmarks that measure progress toward them. … Aspirations can be refined and revised over time. However, aspirations shouldn’t change day to day; they exist to consistently align activities within the firm, so should be designed to last for some time.

Where to Play

The winning aspiration broadly defines the scope of the firm’s activities; where to play and how to win define the specific activities of the organization— what the firm will do, and where and how it will do this, to achieve its aspirations.

Where to play represents the set of choices that narrow the competitive field. The questions to be asked focus on where the company will compete— in which markets, with which customers and consumers, in which channels, in which product categories, and at which vertical stage or stages of the industry in question.

How to Win

Where to play selects the playing field; how to win defines the choices for winning on that field. It is the recipe for success in the chosen segments, categories, channels, geographies, and so on. The how-to-win choice is intimately tied to the where-to-play choice. Remember, it is not how to win generally, but how to win within the chosen where-to-play domains.

… To determine how to win, an organization must decide what will enable it to create unique value and sustainably deliver that value to customers in a way that is distinct from the firm’s competitors. Michael Porter called it competitive advantage— the specific way a firm utilizes its advantages to create superior value for a consumer or a customer and in turn, superior returns for the firm.

Great strategies allow a certain fit between the where-to-play and how-to-win choices that make the company stronger.

Core Capabilities

Two questions flow from and support the heart of strategy: (1) what capabilities must be in place to win, and (2) what management systems are required to support the strategic choices?

Management Systems

The final strategic choice in the cascade focuses on management systems. These are the systems that foster, support, and measure the strategy. To be truly effective, they must be purposefully designed to support the choices and capabilities.

Summing Up

[S]trategy is an iterative process in which all of the moving parts influence one another and must be taken into account together.

The heart of strategy, according to Lafley and Martin, is deciding where to play and determining how you will win there.

What business are you in?

Most companies, if you ask them what business they’re in, will tell you what their product line is or will detail their service offering. Many handheld phone manufacturers, for example, would say they are in the business of making smartphones. They would not likely say that they are in the business of connecting people and enabling communication any place, any time. But that is the business they are actually in— and a smartphone is just one way to accomplish that.

The book was an excellent read and the kindle edition is only $7.99!

Still curious? See A Primer on Strategy.