There’s an adage in business that states, “Structure must follow strategy—not the other way around.” Unfortunately, too often, businesses try to put the tactics and structure before the strategy. As a result, the organization tends to change direction often and is not efficient with its dollars and other resources.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share five key questions to ask your team as you set your business, operations, sales and marketing strategies for 2017.

These questions were recently posed in a Harvard Business Review article by business strategy expert and professor Roger Martin, institute director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto.

  1. What are our broad aspirations for our organization and the concrete goals against which we can measure our progress?
  2. Across the potential field available to us, where will we choose to play and not play?
  3. In our chosen place to play, how will we choose to win against the competitors there?
  4. What capabilities are necessary to build and maintain to win in our chosen manner?
  5. What management systems are necessary to operate to build and maintain the key capabilities?

You’ve probably sat in strategy sessions that start with defining the organization’s mission, vision and values. Martin says that this isn’t effective unless you know the marketspace in which you want to play and know how you want to win.

According to Martin, the reason why these five simple questions are highly effective in setting strategy is because they are inter-dependent on each other. For example, winning against your competitors (question three) is not possible unless you have concrete goals and a plan to build the right capabilities and management structure (questions one and five).

This way of tackling strategy will provide guidelines and focus in developing your strategy in a way that is not achieved through SWOT analyses or other traditional methods.

Source: Roger L. Martin is a professor at and the former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He is a co-author of Playing to Win (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013).