I’m fortunate that, as part of my work, I get to spend time with some of the UK’s leading business executives. A while back, for instance, I hosted a forum of Chief Strategy Officers from a range of FTSE 100 companies.

During the session, we discussed and agreed on 8 golden rules for strategy development, which I’ve set out below. Which of them could help your organisation develop, embed and deliver a better strategy for your organisation?

  1. Keep it simple, stupid. A simple solution is easier to understand, easier to explain and – 90% of the time – easier to deliver.
  2. Be bold. Companies gain a strategic advantage when they are the first to profitably exploit a new opportunity in their market. You don’t always need to be first, but you need to be the first to succeed and this requires boldness and the willingness to take prudent risks.
  3. A good strategist is a good storyteller. You need to tell a compelling story over and over again. This requires passion, clarity and stories. People remember and relate to stories that exemplify your strategy far more than they do to the facts and figures that underpin them.
  4. Challenge assumptions and conventional wisdoms. During the 1990s, for instance,Sky transformed TV viewing in the UK by challenging the assumption that people will only watch free-to-air services. What are the conventional wisdoms in your markets, and how could you challenge them?
  5. Strategy = informed choice + timely action. Strategy is about choices and trade-offs, which require useful data rather than ungrounded opinions. Action is the essence of strategy and its timing is crucial. For example, many companies who perform best coming out of a recession are those that were able and willing to invest in marketing, R&D and acquisitions during the downturn.
  6. Focus. You can only be successful is you focus on a few key areas of the business. How many is too many? The forum’s view was that three priorities at any one time were probably enough for most executive teams. Dabbling in too many things will drive failure.
  7. Ideas are the currency of strategy – spend freely. Be a big spender and share your ideas. Measure your success by the number of other people in your organisation that present back to you your ideas as their own.
  8. Don’t let planning kill strategy. In a McKinsey survey a few years ago, less than 25% of senior executives agreed that they made big strategic decisions during their strategic planning process. Why? Because although the process was called a ‘strategic planning’ project, it was really about the plan and the budget, with little room to consider big new ideas.