This weekend I picked up Product Strategy in High Technology Companies by Michael E. McGrath, a book about how companies succeed and fail in the rapidly evolving high tech space.

From the start of the book, McGrath dives right in and focuses on the importance of core strategic vision:

“Product strategy begins with a strategic vision that states where a company wants to go, how it will get there, and why it will be successful.”

Throughout the first chapter McGrath gives a dozen examples of companies that had strong strategic visions and others whose strategic vision was not as solid.

Every time I read books about the high tech space, I’m always amazed by the same thing: the number of companies that once found early success and eventually ended up failing. Many of these companies had billions of dollars in sales, and today their names are barely recognizable:

Digital Equipment
Osborne Computer
Bachman Information Systems
SOLvation
Valid Logic
Mentor Graphics
Conner Peripherals

At one time, all of them were considered leaders in their respective fields, employed hundreds or thousands of people, and were growing rapidly. Conner Peripherals actually set a record in 1990 as the US’s fastest growing manufacturing company racing to $1.3 billion in sales in just four years. Today, none of these companies are anything more than a case study in a business text.

As I read McGrath’s view on core strategic vision, all I could think about was how it must have felt to be an employee for one of these doomed companies. At the time of their rapid growth, they must have felt unstoppable, on top of the world, destined for success.

Goes to show how quickly things can change and how important it is to have a sound core strategic vision.

It’s one thing to find revenue – and all of these companies found plenty of that. The real challenge is to analyze why you’re making revenue, how the macro-environment is changing, and how you will evolve your products to keep pace with the market.

And of course – the only thing worse than having the wrong core strategic vision, is having one that is unclear.

Core Strategic Vision
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  • Well, Clayton Christensen probably has a more useful vision. Given the speed of change, I like Christensen better – or go a step further, and look at evolution. Then realize that much of a company’s organization exists to insulate the organization from the environment – not to change with it.

    If your company relies on senior execs to make decisions, that’s a problem.

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