World thought leaders in High Performance


5 ideas to create a unique strategy

One of the characteristics in the HPO factor ‘Continuous Improvement & Renewal’ is having a unique strategy. Unique is defined as ‘of which there is only one, unequaled, having no like or equal.’ In many industries it is difficult to develop a unique strategy that is truly different from competitors as many of them basically sell the same type of products and services. However, the manner in which these are sold and the attitude toward customers can be hugely different. Therefore the management of High Performance Organizations (HPOs) find uniqueness both in content and execution of the organizational strategy.They build this unique strategy gradually and consequently, thereby creating widespread opportunities and breakthroughs. They are consciously developing many new options and alternatives to compensate for dying strategies.

Download chapter 1 and 2 of What Makes a High Performance Organization for free (PDF)

Or buy at Amazon (Kindle or Paperback)

Download the eBook ‘An HPO… what is it?’!

The content of our strategy is not so different from that of competitors. Bank products are bulk commodities, they look more or less the same in all banks. If one bank creates a new product it is not difficult for the competitors to copy that product quite fast. The difference is in strategy execution. We say that 10 percent is about content and 90 percent is about execution of the strategy. That is why we are structured differently and why we behave so differently from the average competitor. We also say ‘walk the talk’. We want our managers to be a good example for everybody, a visible example, and not just sit in their offices making strategies that everybody else should follow. No, they should be the first ones to show employees how the strategy should be executed. And that in itself is also different from other banks.

— Mikael Sørensen, Svenska Handelsbanken


The following things you can do to establish the conditions favorable for creating a unique strategy.Unieke Strategie

  • Redefine the industry you are operating within so that the minds of your people are broadened and more possibilities emerge. For instance, Southwest Airlines says it is not in the airline business but in the freedom business, and Umpqua Bank states it is not in banking but in retailing.
  • Let your people think consciously about and then articulate what makes working at the organization a unique experience, and what makes the organization stand out from the competition.
  • Hire people from outside the industry, to get fresh ideas. Practice branchmarking, by looking outside your own sector into other industries where you can get new ideas and become inspired. Also realize that you don’t always have to be the first with an idea: you don’t always have to be original as long as you are different in your own industry. Don’t think about the competition because you will get distracted by what they are doing and that might also influence your own line of thought. Just think about and stay focused on the customer. Do your own thing.
  • Develop your own language and symbols which express the uniqueness of the organization to the people and to the customers (if you think differently about your business, then you also talk differently about the business).
  • Keep spending time on teaching how management and employees can live up to the uniqueness of the organization.

Our strategy in regard to products and markets is not that different from the other steel companies. If you put a new product on the market, within a short period of time others will have similar products, and most of us have the same clients. Our difference is in the execution of the strategy. We have put tremendous effort these past years in improving our processes and we still do that, it is continuous improvement what is so important to us. Every year we will and need to produce more and have less problems. One of my service managers recently expressed it quite nicely. He said: “I have to be careful now. We just got very good satisfaction scores from our internal clients and that might mean we are not critical enough. So if they are now satisfied with us we might not be enough of a nuisance, I have to investigate this.” I like this attitude, it shows that you always need to be on the look-out for things that can be improved, don’t become complacent. And this relentless focus on finding new ways to execute our strategy makes us different.

— Jan Maas, TATA Steel

Any more suggestions how an organization could start to create a unique strategy?

For more information about the HPO Framework, our lecturers, HPO Experts, workshops and Master Classes, please contact us ( or T. +31 (0) 35 – 603 70 07).