Based on an article in Harvard Business Review by Roger Martin

Strategy is sometimes made out to be much more complex than it actually is. This is usually because of too much focus on complex-sounding tools like environmental scans, SWOT analysis, PEST analysis, financial modeling etc. Another issue seems to be that strategy is thought to be about some conceptual and deep into the future stuff.  Building a strategy does not have to be a complex approach. We can simplify strategy by thinking of it as a set of answers to 5 interlinked questions in a specific sequence…

The 5 key questions are:

1- What are our broad aspirations and concrete goals?

2- Where will we choose to play and not play?

3- How will we  win against the competition?

4- What key capabilities are necessary to win?

5- What systems are necessary for these key capabilities?

Naturally the answers to each of the above 5 questions have to be consistent with and reinforce one another. For example, having an Aspiration to be an international player  then Choosing to Play in the domestic market only is not consistent.  Similarly, Winning on the basis of a superior distribution system is not going to be possible without building Key Capabilities and Systems in that area.

Just putting together first responses to these questions is not enough. In order to build a strategy, you have to iterate and brainstorm with others in the team. Think about the Aspirations and Goals, then a little bit about Where to Play and How to Win, then back to Aspirations and Goals to review and refine, then to Capabilities and  Systems to see if it is really doable, then iterate again until a consistent, challenging but realistic picture emerges.

This process will rescue you from wishful thinking  with mindless and boring mission statements and confusing SWOT analyses and will help you get to a better strategy with less pain and time.