Strategy is about shaping the future. But it doesn’t always work in the real world.

That’s why every marketer and strategist should fortify the strategy with toolkits that can really make a difference in offering better strategic thinking to their team, department and the organization.

Dozens of generic toolkits are available, but some come to the forefront more frequently than others do. Here below I’ve chose a selection of the most effective and easy to implement strategy toolkits.

1. The Strategic Questions

“Strategic questions” is a powerful technique to engage groups in innovative thinking, to develop strategy, to facilitate change, and build buy-in for new ideas. There are five basic questions that strategy tries to answer:

• Where we are?
• Where do we want to go?
• What changes have to be made?
• How should changes be made?
• How shall we measure progress?

The answers of these questions are interrelated thus any change in any question will directly affect the answers of other questions.

Take your time in answering these questions and why not include all stakeholders from team members, employees, clients, partners to even family members and friends.

2. Porter’s Value Chain and Value System

This is a powerful analysis tool for strategic planning that includes a set of activities that a firm operating in a specific industry performs in order to deliver a valuable product or service for the market.

To have an effective strategy, try to consider your company as a chain of primary and secondary activities/functions within a wider value system that leads to overall results.

It can be summarized by asking yourself the following questions:

• How well do each business function perform?

• How could you do to improve & how different functions fit together to provide competitive advantage?

• How do you compare to our competitor’s functions?

• Where are the profit pools in your market?

You don’t have to start big, you can work on little advantages, understand them and then combine the gradually.

3. Porter's Five Forces of Competition

This is a framework for looking at the strength of five important factors that affect competition:

• Potential entrants

• Existing competitors

• Buyers • Suppliers

• Alternative products/services

You can build a strategy to keep ahead of these influences by considering the above 5 factors as forces affecting rivalry from existing competitors and continuously think how you could change these forces in your favor.

4. Scenario Planning

“Scenario Planning” is a great technique that builds various plausible views of possible futures for a business by helping strategists to anticipate, make sense of and learn about the future.

In order to set flexible future hypothesis you have to follow the below steps:

- List assumptions you are doing about the future

- Consider what has to happen inside and outside your company

- Identify the most uncertain and the most impactful assumptions

- Start playing imaginatively with trends and traditions to explore new and non-obvious futures

The secret is by focusing on what is happening globally and what competitors are doing in order to list better future assumptions and successful scenarios.

5. Kim and Mauborgne’s Four Actions

This toolkit is used to help create value innovation and break the value-cost trade-off.

To break the trade-off between differentiation and low cost in creating a new value curve, it positions four key actions:

• Raise: Which factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard? (Causes increase in value)

• Create: Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered? (Supports the increase of value)

• Reduce: Which factors should be reduced well below the industry’s standard? (Causes decrease in cost)

• Eliminate: Which factors that the industry has long competed on should be eliminated?(Support the decrease in cost)

The above actions and the dedicated questions will challenge an industry’s strategic logic and is considered an approach to differentiate your products/services from others, entering new markets or disrupting through innovation.

6. Hrebiniak’s Model of Strategy Execution

Having a wonderful strategy is not very useful if you can’t make it work in the real world and here comes the importance of strategy implementation.

This model gives you a logical view of different parts of the organization that needs the decision and action:

• Corporate strategy: In which business you should compete?

• Corporate structure: How much to diversify or focus?

• Business strategy: What products and services to offer and how to differentiate from others?

• Business structure: How to organize different kinds of hierarchy and functions?

As a smart strategist, look for bigger trends, identify strengths, weaknesses opportunities & threats, and shape the future beyond the daily grind.

7. Argyris’ Double and Single Loop Learning

This toolkit is required so that the organization and its employees will improve their understanding of the cause of problems and the effective way of solving them.

By single loop learning we mean solving the increasing changes and the problems that have risen as a consequence of this. However, this ignores the real cause of the problem.

As for double loop learning will go more deeply into the cause of the problem and feedback is used to look at past actions.

With the aim of improving awareness and learning you can use the single and double loop together so you will be able to learn from the mistakes of the present and the past and be capable of admitting this.

All in all, single- and double-loop learning are required by all organizations. It is said that organizations should try to decompose double-loop issues into single-loop issues because single-loop issues are easier to manage.

8. Ansoff’s Growth Grid

It’s difficult for most businesses to decide when to launch new products and when to get into new markets. This growth grid can make choices clearer as it can also help in making core decisions about the strategy.

This toolkit suggests to list your current markets, products and services, then examine the threats, opportunities, weaknesses and strengths with taking into consideration the existing and new market and products. Thus you will be able to figure out what unique capabilities you offer.

Here are 4 different strategies that makes up this growth grid:

• Market Penetration: The lowest risk strategy is for a company to sell its existing products into existing markets as it knows its customers, has established channels and so on.

• Product Development: The second is to develop new products for existing markets (customers), but here the risk is higher than market penetration.

• Market Development: The third strategic option involves taking existing products into new markets. This is also considered to be risker than market penetration as it can be difficult to understand the complexities of new markets.

• Diversification: The final strategy, which is developing new products for new markets. This is seen as the riskiest strategy of all four, as the organization is moving into an unfamiliar market.

9. The Boston Consulting Group's Growth Share Matrix (BCG matrix)

This toolkit is designed to help with long-term strategic planning, to help a business consider growth opportunities by reviewing its portfolio of products to decide where to invest, to discontinue or develop products.

This growth matrix is visualized in a grid that consists of 4 product/service stages ranked on the basis of their relative market shares and growth rates:

• Cash cows is where a company has high market share in a slow-growing industry.

• Dogs are units with low market share in a mature, slow-growing industry.

• Question marks are businesses operating with a low market share in a high-growth market.

• Stars are units with a high market share in a fast-growing industry.

10. Kotter's Eight Phases of Change

Research carried out by the American change and leadership guru John Kotter has proved that there is only a 30% chance of organizational change success. This is why he introduced the “Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model” to improve an organization’s ability to change and to increase its chances of success. By following the following 8 step plan:

• Establish a sense of urgency

By making employees aware of the need and urgency for change, support will be created and this convinces employees of the importance of taking action.

• Form a powerful coalition

It is when an organization establishes a project team that can occupy itself with the changes the organization wants to implement. This group manages all efforts and encourages the employees to cooperate and take a constructive approach.

• Create a Vision:

Formulating a clear vision can help everyone within the organization to understand what the organization is trying to achieve within the agreed time frame, thus making changes more concrete and creates support to implement them.

• Communicating the Vision

This step aims to create support and acceptance of the vision among the employees by talking about it with the employees at every chance you get and make them involved, thus the new vision must be fully adopted across the entire organization.

• Empowering others to act on the vision

Here's is the time to remove obstacles to change, through changing systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision and encourage risk taking and non-traditional ideas, activities and actions.

• Planning for and creating short term wins

Nothing motivates more than success. Create short-term goals so that the employees have a clear idea of what is going on. When the goals have been met, the employees will be motivated to fine tune and expand the change.

• Consolidating improvements and producing still more change Many change trajectories fail because victory is declared too early. However, change is a slow-going process and it must be driven into the overall corporate culture. Only after multiple successes have been achieved, organizations can be established that the change is paying off.

• Institutionalizing new approaches

A change will only become part of the corporate culture when it has become a part of the core of the organization. Change does not come about by itself. Values and standards must agree with the new vision and the employees’ behavior must provide a seamless match.

These were the main toolkits that can support you through your strategy preparation process.

But preparing your company's strategy is a complicated process, that's why experts recommend to outsource your strategy preparation to a professional party.