Thinking can start small

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AMONG smaller companies, strategy is something that concerns only the multinationals, such as ICI, Unilever and the rest. But this is a mistake, according to Kerry Napuk, author of The Strategy Led Business.

'Strategy is critical for small companies. They often have fewer resources and less time to think their way through dangerous waters,' he writes in the book.

Having a vision, and a business plan designed to take the company towards it, are vital for success, since the same problems face any company - large or small. The problem, Mr Napuk says, is that 'medium-sized companies are reactive animals' with management teams spending most of their time and energy on day-to-day matters and not devoting enough time to wider issues. Consequently, growth is treated as 'a piecemeal process, without an overall direction'.

But there is little help available to the manager in a smaller company manager who is keen to acquire planning skills without taking the time to go to business school.

Mr Kapuk's book seeks to obviate that difficulty. It is written in a non-technical and breezy style that allows a busy executive to read it and take in most of its points in an evening. Its central theme is a model for implementing strategy that Mr Kapuk claims has been used by many organisations of varying size and different industries in several countries.

It asks four basic questions: How did you get here? Where do you want to go? How will you get there? And how can you make it work?

Although each company will throw up its own answers, the questions are universal. As a result, it is possible to produce a common format based on the idea of an internal vision leading to objectives and goals, which in turn lead to external strategies, which ultimately produce action plans, which are then linked to vision.

Equally, while the process should involve comprehensive planning, it should not be seen as a military campaign. 'Over-emphasis on militarism can be misleading,' writes Mr Kapuk. 'If business was like warfare, there would be more successful military men running companies.'

Instead, the planning process should be flexible and responsive to changing conditions. Like other initiatives, such as quality, strategic thinking should also be continuous.

'The Strategy Led Business' is published by McGraw-Hill at pounds 19.95.

(Photograph omitted)