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By Tony Vidler

For most professional services firms today the number one strategic challenge is determining what the the right strategy for the firm actually is.

It would easily be THE single thing that firms I talk to are wrestling with, and it is understandable to a large degree. Changing remuneration and business models, changing regulations with new restrictions and new potential opportunities, changing consumer expectations….it all adds up to very confusing times indeed for anyone trying to determine the right way forward. It is not helped by the confusion over what strategy is, as opposed to what business planning is, or what tactics are.

Let’s be clear firstly about what strategy actually is: it is “the big cunning idea” that guides the planning process. It is the concept which links the detailed planning and tactics to the achievement of the long term vision or goal. The strategy is the big idea on how we will compete, or differentiate.

My favorite analogy for explaining strategy is the story of Sir Peter Blake and the Team New Zealand America’s Cup campaign. They managed to excite a nation – even those not interested in yachting – which is why I use the story, as everyone (in NZ) remembers it.  Blake’s strategy for winning this yachting regatta was a simple one: have the fastest boat.

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