Strategy Vs. Execution: Is It The End Of Strategy?

I still remember that day. I was sitting in class, during my MBA, diving into an HBR case study.

We had 30 minutes to read and process it and understand what the best solution for the Barilla case study was.

The case (for what I recall now) was based on an issue Barilla (one of the largest Italian pasta manufacturers) was facing during the 1990s, caused by a huge demand fluctuation (what in supply chain management is called “bullwhip effect”).

In short, as you move up in the supply chain, it becomes harder and harder to predict the volume of demand. 

Therefore, Barilla was trying to solve this issue, which caused considerable inefficiencies to its manufacturing capacity. 

Several things make this happen, from asymmetric information throughout the supply chain to behavioral factors (such as incentives or disincentives within and outside the organization). 

I’m not going to give you the solution here (I don’t want to kill the fun), but let’s say that it’s all about strategy!

Read: Business Strategy: Examples, And Case Studies, And Tools

Strategy in a vacuum

When I used to develop my business understanding through those “real world” cases, I felt I had learned universal strategic laws applicable to the business world. 

This illusion stayed with me for a few years after business school; until I found myself trying to build a real business from scratch.

What I figured later was to forget most of the things I had learned. 

Strategy, I learned it is something that gets developed after the fact (in most cases).

In short, in the real business world, you make hypotheses, you test them, they do not work, most of the time, and you go back and reconsider. 

Therefore, a good strategic tool isn’t one that allows us to theorize much, but instead, it’s a tool that makes us test a lot. 

As I’ve helped grow a startup from scratch and I’ve grown my own business from scratch in the last years, I noticed how those ideas that seem trivial (you give for granted they’ll work because they make sense) in reality won’t work at all!

You go back, tweak, re-test, it won’t work, try again, and after a continuous, painful (it becomes fun only when it starts to work) process things start to finally work. 

Only at hindsight

That is when we go back and say “my strategy is working.”

But really, what does that mean? 

After all, you got a process, a set of ideas that will turn out to be only in a very small percentage successful.

And only fewer of those successful ideas will really make a difference, until that one idea might be wildly successful, to pay off for all the others that just didn’t work!

So what’s strategy? 

The way I learned to see it, strategy is the choice you make as a business person about the kind of business that you want to build in the long-term. This long-term vision is especially defined via negativa (the way you absolutely do not want your business to look like in a few years). 

The rest is a set of tactics and short-term experiments that require tenacity, speed and the willingness to bet against your own initial ideas that made so much sense, that indeed didn’t work at all!

The FourWeekMBA Business Strategy Toolbox

Tech Business Model Framework

A tech business model is made of four main components: value model (value propositions, missionvision), technological model (R&D management), distribution model (sales and marketing organizational structure), and financial model (revenue modeling, cost structure, profitability and cash generation/management). Those elements coming together can serve as the basis to build a solid tech business model.

Blockchain Business Model Framework

A Blockchain Business Model according to the FourWeekMBA framework is made of four main components: Value Model (Core Philosophy, Core Values and Value Propositions for the key stakeholders), Blockchain Model (Protocol Rules, Network Shape and Applications Layer/Ecosystem), Distribution Model (the key channels amplifying the protocol and its communities), and the Economic Model (the dynamics/incentives through which protocol players make money). Those elements coming together can serve as the basis to build and analyze a solid Blockchain Business Model.

Business Competition

In a business world driven by technology and digitalization, competition is much more fluid, as innovation becomes a bottom-up approach that can come from anywhere. Thus, making it much harder to define the boundaries of existing markets. Therefore, a proper business competition analysis looks at customer, technology, distribution, and financial model overlaps. While at the same time looking at future potential intersections among industries that in the short-term seem unrelated.

Technological Modeling

Technological modeling is a discipline to provide the basis for companies to sustain innovation, thus developing incremental products. While also looking at breakthrough innovative products that can pave the way for long-term success. In a sort of Barbell Strategy, technological modeling suggests having a two-sided approach, on the one hand, to keep sustaining continuous innovation as a core part of the business model. On the other hand, it places bets on future developments that have the potential to break through and take a leap forward.

Transitional Business Models

A transitional business model is used by companies to enter a market (usually a niche) to gain initial traction and prove the idea is sound. The transitional business model helps the company secure the needed capital while having a reality check. It helps shape the long-term vision and a scalable business model.

Minimum Viable Audience

The minimum viable audience (MVA) represents the smallest possible audience that can sustain your business as you get it started from a microniche (the smallest subset of a market). The main aspect of the MVA is to zoom into existing markets to find those people which needs are unmet by existing players.

Business Scaling

Business scaling is the process of transformation of a business as the product is validated by wider and wider market segments. Business scaling is about creating traction for a product that fits a small market segment. As the product is validated it becomes critical to build a viable business model. And as the product is offered at wider and wider market segments, it’s important to align product, business model, and organizational design, to enable wider and wider scale.

Market Expansion

The market expansion consists in providing a product or service to a broader portion of an existing market or perhaps expanding that market. Or yet, market expansions can be about creating a whole new market. At each step, as a result, a company scales together with the market covered.



Growth Matrix

In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode). Or perhaps by tackling whole new problems for new customers (reinvent mode).

Revenue Streams

In the FourWeekMBA Revenue Streams Matrix, revenue streams are classified according to the kind of interactions the business has with its key customers. The first dimension is the “Frequency” of interaction with the key customer. As the second dimension, there is the “Ownership” of the interaction with the key customer.

Revenue Model

Revenue model patterns are a way for companies to monetize their business models. A revenue model pattern is a crucial building block of a business model because it informs how the company will generate short-term financial resources to invest back into the business. Thus, the way a company makes money will also influence its overall business model.

Belo some frameworks for quick experimentation:

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