Bechtel Consulting Group

Vol. 9, Issue 1
                                                                                                                                    Jan, 2019

The Competitive Edge

Strategies for Success in Today's Markets 


Welcome to the new year!  To help you get it off to a rousing start, I'm pleased to bring you the January, 2019 issue of "The Competitive Edge," 
a monthly newsletter geared to helping you boost your strategic, organizational and marketing performance. 

My aim is to stimulate your own thinking, perhaps causing you to see things in a different light. If you do find the content helpful, please feel free to  you think will also benefit. 

I always welcome a two-way dialog because I stand to learn as much as I share. So please feel free to share your reactions, ideas or suggestions. You can email me at or call 206-351-8604.
Strategy - What It Is - and Isn't  
Steps to Organize Your Thinking 

   With the start of the new year, thoughts within any organization naturally turn forward, and strategy takes a front seat.  So I thought I would share some thoughts of my own on the topic, in hopes that they might stimulate your own thinking.
   Webster's Dictionary offers two rather distinct definitions for the word, "Strategy:"
The science and art of military command exercised to meet the enemy in combat under advantageous conditions.
  b) The art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal.
    Interesting pair of definitions. The second one is what most business leaders probably would embrace. Trouble is, it's so vague that almost anything can be construed as a strategy by this definition. And that's what accounts for so much misuse of the term, and results in so many cases of companies that actually wind up with no strategies, at all.  More on that in a moment.
   In some ways, I actually like the first definition better, even though it sounds irrelevant at first blush. If you substitute "organizational" for "military" and "competition" for "enemy," you start to get my point.  The key phrase here is "advantageous conditions."  The definition is not implying that one should wait for such conditions to occur naturally - rather, one must create advantageous conditions so as to meet the "enemy" on one's own terms.
   Viewed from this perspective, the true nature of "strategy" begins to take shape.
   It is all too common for those in charge of strategic planning to position it (knowingly or incidentally) as a Kumbaya session.  "Let's reaffirm our values, celebrate our successes and do some goal-setting."  Not that such planning sessions don't deliver benefits - they may very well, if the alternative is to do nothing.
   The trouble is, they rarely result in any true strategies being conceived or enacted. Sometimes, things are left at the Goals & Objectives level, in which case, more often than not, everyone pats him/herself on the back and the plan then gathers dust on a shelf somewhere.
   At other times, the leadership does have the presence of mind to drive the business units to do their own operational planning around the strategic plan.  This is far superior, to be sure. But the trouble here is that department heads tend to jump straight into tactics, and a critical intermediate step is missed. The result is a chasm between the intent of the strategic plan and the tactics ultimately employed. 
   Just like military generals mapping out their battle strategy, the approach in a business environment ought to follow the same process:
  1. Diagnose.  Analyze past successes and survey the current landscape. Discover critical factor(s) and design a way of harnessing, coordinating and focusing actions to deal with them. 
  2. Establish a guiding policy that specifies the approach to be employed in dealing with the obstacles or other critical factors identified in the Diagnosis phase.  "How will we contend with this circumstance?"  "How can we best neutralize or leverage this factor?" (Intermediate step - part A)
  3. Now, define one or more coherent actions.  These are practical policies, resource commitments and other actions designed to execute the guiding policy.  (Intermediate step - part B)
  4. Finally, for each coherent action, answer the question, "How are we going to accomplish this?" Your answers will generally take the form of executable tactics.  Assign responsibilities, place time frames around them, and you're ready to proceed with the confidence that your efforts will be tied directly to your strategic goals & objectives.

   This is a winnowing process, and its core is the combination of steps one and two.  They generally are  laid out by the strategic planning team, and become the raw material from which department heads determine their courses of action. They provide a context and set the standards against which to judge the appropriateness of various tactics that are proposed.  If these first two steps are not done properly, the result likely will be a case of "garbage in, garbage out."
   The outcome of steps one and two also provides a lens through which to observe changes in the climate surrounding the organization on an ongoing basis. Adapting them to remain attuned to the environment prompts corresponding adjustments at the tactical level and prevents the organization from getting off track. 
   Steps 2 and 3 are the often-overlooked interim steps. Too often, the planning team roles step one into a written strategic plan, which it then provides to department heads for operational planning purposes. The problem is that, without steps 2 and 3, it's just too big of a leap, and results in too much guesswork at the operational planning level.
   Ideally, there should be one additional step in this process, which would lie between steps two and three. It is to examine and adjust (or design, as the case may be) the organization's business model to assure it is in alignment with the outcome of steps one and two.  I wrote an article on the subject which you can find here.  Taking time to do this will provide tremendous illumination and additional input to department or unit heads tasked with designing tactics.
   Whether you follow this process to the letter or develop your own hybrid, the sequential nature of the underlying thinking process can make all the difference between squandering resources and getting anemic results vs. excelling in your performance.

Top Ten Resolutions of
Successful People

Not too long ago, contributor Mike Maddock, in an article for Forbesoffered what he found to be the top 10 resolutions of successful people.  For the most part, they are no less relevant today. 

Spend more time on the not-to-do list .  Strategy, as Maddock puts it, is the art of sacrifice. Cutting out what matters least helps you focus on what matters most.
Essential first, email second .  Most of us start the day by checking our emails. Maddock says successful people consider that starting the day with distractions, and avoid it. They start with the most important task of the day, and then check their email.
3. Think about Who instead of What.  The "who" here pertains to the customer base, the "what" to whatever products or services the company provides.
Find your purpose - If you don't know your company's purpose or even your own, finding one is the worthiest of resolutions. People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  According to Maddock, "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." Successful people strive to understand their company's purpose - and their own.
Support a cause .  Maddock asserts that there is a cause for everyone, and finding & supporting yours will contribute to your sense of fulfillment.
Invent more choices . The more choices you feel you have, the less trapped-and happier-you will feel, says Maddock.  So, when you feel frustrated or unhappy, resolve to brainstorm for more options/choices.
7. Find a Yin for your Yang. Determine where your passions lie, then go find an equally passionate partner.
Get outside your jar . You can't read the label when you are sitting inside the jar, says Maddock. Instead of relying only on your expertise, learn how to find other experts solving similar challenges.
Be the creator . What is the outcome you want? What stands in your way? How do you overcome these obstacles? These three simple questions will keep you from being victimized by any situation.
10. Plan your next vacation now.  It will feed your optimism and anticipation, and help you to be more productive in the meantime.

The Competitive Edge is a monthly newsletter published by the Bechtel Consulting Group for the interest and enlightenment of our clients, colleagues and friends.  You can reach us at 6505 NE 182nd St, Suite 101, Kenmore, WA 98028; by calling (206) 351-8604, or by emailing  For more information about the Bechtel Consulting Group, visit our website,


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In This Issue
At this time of year, thoughts turn to strategy. Here are some thoughts to help shape your own thinking on the subject.    

Plus, see how many of your New Year's resolutions match up with Forbes contributor Mike Maddock's top 10. 



If you find the content of our newsletter useful, please feel free to forward it to colleagues who might also benefit.


Did You Know....
   The Marketing Executive Roundtable is comprised of top tier marketing executives from leading organizations in greater Seattle. We meet monthly to exchange ideas and seek one another's counsel on the important issues facing marketing leaders today.  
   The MER has become an invaluable resource to keep marketing leaders abreast of best practices in today's turbulent waters.  
   If you or someone you know are a possible match and interested in learning more, please visit www.merseattle.orgWe would be happy to have you or them join us as our guest at an upcoming session.

"Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

 Winston Churchill
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Bechtel Consulting Group

6505 NE 182nd St

Suite 101

Kenmore, WA 98028

Phone:(206) 351-8604


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