Yesterday when we wrote about Power Plays in which a strategic initiative is leveraged, one of the key criteria was that a position of strength is required. How do you take a position of strength and what is necessary?
The first understanding has to be what is strength? Physical strength, like how many pounds you can lift, is measurable. Strength of position financially and in the marketplace can be quantified. Both of these can be impressive and useful, but will not win alone. It takes positional strength, which is always perceptual, to win.
Let’s take for example a business that has grown its customer base over the years and, while large, basically maintains its market strength due to size and reach. Few changes and little innovation are needed to maintain the company. It has become something of a fixture and a known commodity with recognition of its size. While it has size and presence, representing sizable market strength, it will be those characteristics that also make it easy to attack. The size makes it difficult to maneuver, counter attacks and implement change. A new entity or idea comes to town touting a new and different business model, throwing down a gauntlet of challenge as if it has already won position. It acts as a leader and people are interested, curious and willing to consider the new company. If the leader and voice of the new entity is also charismatic, the large company which has market strength is automatically positioned to play defense because the new entity is utilizing a position gained by perceptual strength alone. Size in this game will not matter for long, it will not even be a consideration as the distraction and perceptual strength has nothing to do with size.
A company that has become large and stale is very vulnerable and has little chance to take a position of strength as it will be engaged in both internal and external battles, always defending. Usually they do not even have the mechanisms in place to turn and become the aggressor.
Companies cannot become complacent in position or decide to take a position of strength casually or occasionally. A position of strength is a defined strategic initiative that allows the company great agility in presenting strength in many areas and styles, making attack very difficult.
Large companies do not have to be vulnerable. They, too, can leverage strengths greatly by taking positions of strength throughout the business, focusing and highlighting different areas at any given time. Think of a pot that is boiling and rolling, churning the contents over and over creating steam and energy.
Positions of strength are declarative and must be advanced with a claim that resonates and gains attention. While the company as an entity and leadership may be a quiet force, there are always communications and advances. The advances are those of an aggressor and the aggressor is seldom attacked.