Six Common Strategy Traps

Six Common Strategy Traps

As we move into 2020 you are probably creating and/or reviewing your strategy for the upcoming year. I have written extensively in the past on strategy and what it is and is not.

Strategy is all about the competitive advantage you are able to sustain over time. Patrick Lencioni (author of The Advantage) states that strategy in the simplest form is your plan for success. It is a collection of intentional decisions your company makes to give itself the best chance to thrive and differentiate from competitors.

In this light I recommend a read or re-read of Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by Lafley and Martin. They expand on strategy as the art of making specific choices to win in the marketplace.


But how do you make these choices? One way to help focus on those choices is to look at common traps that many companies fall into when developing strategy.

“There is no perfect strategy – no algorithm that can guarantee sustainable competitive advantage in a given industry or business.” But there are signals that a company has an acutely worrying strategy.


Here are the six most common strategy traps (1):

  1. The do-it-all strategy: failing to make choices, and making everything a priority.
  2. The Don Quixote strategy: attacking competitive “walled cities” or taking on the strongest competitor first, head-to-head.
  3. The Waterloo strategy: starting wars on multiple fronts with multiple competitors at the same time. No company can do everything well at the same time.
  4. The something-for-everyone strategy: attempting to capture all consumer or channel or geographic or category segments at once.
  5. The dreams-that-never-come-true strategy: developing high-level aspirations and mission statements that never get translated into concrete where-to-play and how-to-win choices, core capabilities, and management systems.
  6. The program-of-the-month strategy: settling for generic industry strategies, in which all competitors are chasing the same customers, geographies, and segments in the same way.

Can you identify with any of these traps? Are they keeping you from developing an exceptional strategy for the new year? Contact me to discuss how to avoid these traps.

All the best

© 2019-2020 David Paul Carter. All rights reserved.

(1) © Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, by A.G. Lafley  (Author), Roger L. Martin  (Author).

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