7 elements for building a successful strategy

A clear strategy is the basis for a successful company and also a prerequisit for its survival

Many entrepreneurs work for their dream. But only a few have clear strategies and also fields of action that they can pass on to their employees. We show how to go from the company’s own dream to an applicable and understandable strategy in 7 steps.

Companies need a strategy. This is often said, but few companies have a real strategy. It doesn’t even have to be about issues such as digitalisation, new business models, your own digital transformation, when the question of strategy is asked. Since many companies without a strategy are more concerned with day-to-day operations without a big goal or plan, this can have long-term consequences for their business success. As many business founders still struggle to define a strategy and do not know what the basic elements of a strategy are, here are the 7 most important elements of a strategy.

It is always important to understand that any strategic planning starts with the vision and becomes more and more tangible with each step.

7 key elements in developing a business strategy

Vision – without the vision there is no strategy

The vision statement is one of the key components of a good strategy. You should clearly think long-term. Where should the journey of the company go and especially the vision of the company should explain where it should be in 3, 5 or more years.

This is where you should make sure that you really work out your own core and goals and spend several hours and days on it. This vision is the basis for all further steps.

Amazon is a good example of a vision: “Our vision is to be the world’s most customer-centric company; to create a place where people can find and discover anything they want to buy online”.

Mission – Clarify who you are

Unlike the vision for the future of the company, the mission statement is the description of what you stand for as a company. It describes what makes you unique and how you make your customers happy with what you do.

Vision and mission statements are often combined into one. However, you should make a clear distinction between describing where you are now, what you stand for now, and what you are doing to move towards your vision in the future.

A good example of a vision statement is Harley Davidson: “We fulfil dreams through the motorcycling experience by offering motorcyclists and the general public a growing range of motorcycles and branded products and services in selected market segments.

Core Values – the values of a company

By looking at your core values, you can also quickly define what values you hold as a company and what values you avoid. This is also almost like a guide on how you need to work to achieve your goals.

Coca Cola has very clear and simple core values:

Leadership: The courage to shape a better future
Collaboration: Leverage collective genius
Integrity: Be real
Accountability: If it is to be, it’s up to me
Passion: Committed in heart and mind
Diversity: As inclusive as our brands
Quality: What we do, we do well

SWOT Analysis

To achieve goals, it is not only useful to have instructions, but also to know where you stand and what your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are. This is what a SWOT analysis does. It systematically highlights the areas. The best way to do this is with as many members of the business as possible, so that any less obvious strengths or weaknesses can be better identified.

  • Strengths – This is where you describe your own strengths. For example, where you are better than the competition, what advantages you have, etc.
  • Weaknesses – Here you can find out what weaknesses exist in the company. For example, disadvantages, problems, stumbling blocks, etc.
  • Opportunities – What opportunities are there in the marketplace and where are there opportunities for development.
  • Threats – What are the threats in the market and what should you be aware of?

Long-term objectives

Now that you have looked closely at your vision, mission and SWOT analysis, it is time to set goals. In this document, try to describe in 3-5 statements how you want to achieve your vision. Keep your plans short so that they are easy to understand. This step will also help you to see how realistic or unrealistic your vision is.

Set targets for each year

Based on the long-term goals set out in point 5, it is advisable to abstract them on an annual basis. What do we need to achieve this year to reach our long-term goals? What progress do we want to make this year?

In particular, these objectives should be SMART.

Specific – Simple, clearly defined, and relevant objectives
Measurable – Targets must be measurable and comparable
Achievable – Set achievable goals
Realistic – Targets must be realistic and achievable
Time-based – The goals must have clear start and end points or be delimitable in time.

Establish an action plan

The final level of planning is the action plan. This is where you define clear activities for each objective in the year. Depending on the complexity of the annual objectives, these may need to be explained in detail. In particular, the action plan should be easy for everyone to understand, so that employees or business partners can easily get an overview of what needs to be done.

 “A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world.”

10 steps to strategic business planning – a simple guide

The 10-Step Business Strategic Planning Process is a comprehensive and organised approach to help business leaders achieve their desired results. By clearly defining the company’s vision and mission, analysing the current situation, setting goals and strategies, and creating action plans with timelines and assigned responsibilities, companies can increase their chances of success. Monitoring progress and making adjustments along the way is also critical to the success of any strategic plan.

1. Define a vision

The first step in the strategic planning process is to define a vision for the organisation. This vision should be ambitious and inspiring, yet realistic and achievable. It should also be consistent with the company’s core values. Once the vision has been defined, it should be communicated to all members of the organisation and used to guide day-to-day decisions.

You may also want to say what you are ‘not’ in this part of the vision statement. For example, a company that is not environmentally friendly may want to make this clear in its vision statement so that it is not associated with negative environmental practices.

2. Define a mission

The next step is to define the mission of the company. The mission should be a statement of purpose that clearly articulates what the company does and why it exists. The mission should be short, clear and memorable. It should also be consistent with the company’s vision.

3. Analyse the current situation – assess the status quo

Once the vision and mission have been defined, it is time to analyse the company’s current situation. This analysis should include, at a minimum, a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis and an assessment of the company’s current position in the marketplace. Other analyses that could be carried out include a competitor, customer and industry analysis, or sourced from external research agencies or platforms.

4. Set clear goals, objectives and targets

One of the most overlooked but critical steps in the strategic planning process is setting clear goals, objectives and targets. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). Without these elements, it will be difficult to track progress and know whether the organisation is on track to achieve its vision and mission. Once goals have been set, it is important to communicate them to all members of the organisation.

5. Formalise strategies and strategic options

Once the basic elements of vision, mission, status-quo and goals have been established, the next step is to formalise the company’s strategies and strategic options based on all the previous assumptions. This step should involve the development of detailed plans for how the company will achieve its goals. The strategies and options should be based on the results of the analysis (e.g. SWOT) and the goals you want to achieve.

The SET-Model also differentiates between three different areas where strategies need to be developed:

  • Survive – Strategies that secure the bottom-line and keep the companies alive.
  • Expand – Strategies that improve current offerings, expand the market reach, creat new markets, etc.
  • Transform Innovations, totally new offerings, out-of-the-box thinking, radically new things, etc.

6. Create tactics & concrete action plans

Once you have designed and developed your long-term strategic options and plans, the next step is to create tactics and concrete action plans. Tactics are the specific actions that need to be taken to achieve the desired goal. The action plan should specify who is responsible for each task, when it must be completed, and what resources are needed.

7. Allocate and plan the resources needed

Once a strategy has been broken down into tactics and a concrete action plan, an organisation should allocate and plan for the resources needed to implement the plans. This step should include the development of a budget and a timetable for that budget in order to manage cash flow. Resources should be allocated in a way that ensures they are used effectively and efficiently and prioritised according to strategic objectives.

8. Assign clear responsibilities

It is important to assign clear responsibilities for each of the tasks that need to be completed. These responsibilities should be assigned to individuals or teams. Assignments should be based on the skills and abilities of those involved, but also on the availability of resources.

9. Create and manage timelines

Create and manage timelines for each of the tasks to be completed. Timetables should be realistic and achievable. They should also be flexible enough to accommodate changes that may occur during the implementation process.

Note: Most projects take about 30% longer and go over budget. Calculate your projects with this in mind.

10. Monitor, review and evaluate progress

The final step is to monitor, review and evaluate progress. This step should include the preparation of reports that track the company’s progress towards its goals. These reports should be made available to all members of the organisation. The results of the reports should be used to make adjustments to the plans.

Common challenges in strategy development

Developing a strategy is not easy and there are many challenges that organisations face.

Lack of clarity

Lack of clarity is a common challenge in strategy development. The first step in developing a strategy is to develop a clear and concise statement of the organisation’s overall mission and purpose. This can be difficult if there is confusion or disagreement among members of the organisation about the direction of the organisation.

Unrealistic goals

Unrealistic goals are another common challenge in strategy development. Organisations often set goals that are too ambitious or unrealistic, which can lead to disappointment and frustration when these goals are not met. It is important to set realistic and achievable goals as part of the strategy development process.

Lack of resources

Lack of resources is another challenge that can hinder strategy development. Organisations need adequate resources (e.g. financial, human, technological) to develop and implement a successful strategy. If an organisation does not have the necessary resources, it may need to consider alternatives, such as partnering with other organisations or seeking external funding.

Lack of alignment

Lack of alignment is another common challenge in strategy development. This can occur when there is a lack of alignment between the organisation’s strategy and its structure, culture and systems. This can lead to confusion and frustration among employees and ultimately hinder the implementation of the strategy.

Lack of information

Lack of information is another challenge that can make it difficult to develop an effective strategy. Organisations need access to accurate and up-to-date information to make informed decisions about where to allocate resources. Without access to the right information, organisations may make decisions that are not in line with their objectives.

Conflicting priorities

Conflicting priorities are another challenge that can arise during strategy development. This can happen when different members of the organisation have different ideas about what the organisation’s priorities should be. This can lead to disagreements and stalled progress in developing a strategy.

Moving the goalposts

Moving the goalposts is another challenge that can make strategy development difficult. This happens when the organisation’s goals or objectives change after the strategy has been developed. This can be in response to changes in the external environment (e.g. changes in the competitive landscape or economic conditions) or internal factors (e.g. changes in the organisation’s structure or culture).

SET-Model for Strategy Development

The SET-Model is a way to remember the three most important things companies need to do to be successful: Survive, Expand and Transform.

  • Survive is the part where the company focuses on the bottom line to keep paying invoices, and wages and keep the company alive.
  • Expand means doing more of what you’re already doing, but better. e.g. Improving offerings, Expanding to new markets, and adding additional services to extend the product.
  • Transform means changing what you’re doing completely. This means investment in absolutely new ideas, disruptive innovations, or other areas which were not explored before.

Strategy development: Who is responsible?

Developing a strategy is not an easy task. It requires the input and cooperation of many different people within the organisation. Ultimately, however, it is the CEO’s responsibility to ensure that the strategy is developed and implemented effectively. Of course, this means gathering the necessary data and working on strategy formulation throughout the year, not just holding a workshop once a year and then creating a strategy out of thin air.

The CEO needs to be a good time manager and take the time to work with management on strategic planning and direction. They need to be able to step back and look at the big picture and not get bogged down in day-to-day tasks.

Management should devote time to developing the Survive, Expand and Transform strategy. This means that management should spend 60% of their time on Survive activities, 20% of their time on Expand activities and 20% of their time on Transform activities. This will ensure that the organisation can develop and implement a successful strategy.

Balancing and prioritising strategic elements

Somehow it seems that everyone hates doing strategy and finds hundreds of excuses not to do it. But there are many benefits to having a ‘strategic mindset’. Don’t get me wrong – the strategy you formulate will never be 100% accurate, and it is not a recipe, but rather a ‘guideline’. And many organisations are also missing an important ingredient: a shared vision and a clear mission. This omission often leads them to get bogged down in day-to-day tasks, losing sight of the broader, long-term perspective needed for sustained growth and innovation, and becoming a ping-pong ball between problems.

So take the time to build your Cornerstone of Strategy: Culture, Vision and Mission. A strong culture, underpinned by a shared vision and mission, is not just a part of strategy, it is its cornerstone. A culture that embraces change, fosters innovation and encourages continuous learning is essential to keep an organisation aligned with its strategic goals. Without this alignment, efforts become fragmented and teams can drift away from strategic goals and become entangled in the immediacy of operational tasks.

The challenge for many organisations is to balance the need for immediate results with the pursuit of long-term goals, but the long-term goals often fall victim to “not enough time”. This balancing act requires a clear understanding of how each strategic element – from SWOT analysis to setting goals and establishing action plans – fits into the company’s broader vision and mission. Prioritising these elements requires not only a keen insight into current market dynamics, but also a deep understanding of the company’s core values and long-term aspirations.

To avoid the pitfall of focusing too much on day-to-day operations at the expense of strategic development, companies and entrepreneurs should set aside specific days and weeks each month and year to focus solely on growing their business, reviewing what is good and what needs to be improved, and finally, trying new things. This Survive, Expand and Transform horizon is very helpful when it comes to prioritising tasks and devoting time and resources to certain issues. It involves not only a review of goals and objectives, but also an assessment of how well the company’s culture, vision and mission continue to guide its strategic direction.

Insights-Driven Organizations (IDOs): A new approach to corporate strategy

Insights-Driven Organisations (IDOs) are an advanced approach to using data analysis to support strategic decision making. Unlike data-driven organisations, which focus primarily on collecting and analysing large amounts of data, IDOs are about understanding the ‘why’ behind the data. They seek to identify patterns, predict future trends and use these insights to drive the business forward. Crucially, the insights do not necessarily have to come from internal data and tools.

This approach is particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). While data-driven companies may need to collect and analyse large amounts of data, IDOs can also source their insights externally. Companies can work with external partners or purchase insights from third parties to complement their internal data (e.g. KPIs) and analytical capabilities. This can be particularly valuable for companies that do not have a wealth of internal data.

For example, a small business might use external market research to gain insights into consumer trends, or a hospital might use data from third-party healthcare providers to better understand patient outcomes. These external insights can then be combined with internal data to support decision making and strategy.

The benefits of an Insights-Driven Organisation approach are many:

  • Competitive advantage: Through data-driven insights, organisations can use data to discover new opportunities, differentiate themselves and drive innovation that no one else could see or predict.
  • Make better (and faster) decisions: IDOs can make data-driven decisions that reduce uncertainty, improve the outcomes of those decisions, and often make decisions faster. This avoids costly mistakes and allows decisions to be made with greater confidence.
  • Efficiency and productivity: An IDO can improve operational efficiency by identifying bottlenecks, predicting problems and reviewing strategic positioning. These insights can lead to higher productivity, enable more holistic and better strategic decisions, and help companies allocate resources more effectively. In addition to all the strategic opportunities, cost savings and improved operational efficiency can also impact the business.
  • Improved customer experience: By understanding data about customers and their behaviour, organisations can deliver better experiences, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
    Risk mitigation: By predicting trends, uncovering weaknesses and anticipating problems, companies can better prepare for and mitigate business risks.


Developing a strategy is essential for any business, but it’s not enough to simply create one and put it on the shelf. Strategies need to be managed, and CEOs and top management need to pay close attention to focusing attention and resources on the SET areas of Survive, Expand and Transform. But without a clear vision, mission, status quo assessment and comprehensive goals, it will be a challenge to create a successful strategy.

Only by having all the elements in place and constantly challenging them can you ensure that your business is moving in the right direction and achieving its goals.

Author: Benjamin Talin, CEO of MoreThanDigital

MoreThanDigital Insights is like a health check for your business. It looks at over 300 parts of your business, from financials to even aspects like company culture. It gives you clear data to help you see where you're doing well and where you can improve. You can also compare your business with other businesses or your industry. All of this is easy to understand and use, even for your team. And the best part? It's a powerful tool to help you make better business decisions and the basic version is FREE FOR EVERYONE.

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