Monday, May 29, 2017

Analyzing the Importance of Uniqueness in Strategy Development

            When analyzing this week’s lecture, readings, and case studies, an important notion appears to be lacking from emphasis when discussing strategy development: an organization’s uniqueness. Given that week one’s lecture centered around the concept that strategy involves creating “a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities, and creating fit among those activities,” it seems remaining distinct would be a factor that is more heavily stressed when developing an organization’s strategic plan.  
I believe the importance of uniqueness is suggested well in “Your Strategy Needs a Strategy.” The authors point out that companies in different industries, such as oil and software, are making grave mistakes by attempting to utilize the same strategy plans. However, the question that comes to mind is whether this critique should apply to companies within the same industry as well. For instance, when examining the food industry, we observe the continued trend in eating natural foods that are “clean” or free of artificial ingredients.[1] Yet when we examine Panera Bread and McDonald’s, we see clearly the problems that can arise when a company, such as McDonald’s, forgoes its uniqueness in order to follow industry trends or to mimic the competition’s strategic plans.
Panera identifies their core mission to be “food as it should be,” meaning that the company’s food is “clean, raised responsibly, nutrient rich, savored and enjoyed, personalized, and transparent.”[2] According to the company’s 2000 Annual Report, “real food, not processed or commercial” has been the company’s focus even before the industry trend leaned in this direction.[3] As of 2017, the company has successfully achieved the mission it set forth in 2015 to eliminate all 96 additives from its menu.[4]
However, just because this strategic plan is working for Panera, it does not mean that it applies well to McDonald’s. According to The Wall Street Journal, McDonald’s strategic plan erred in the last five years because of the company’s focus on providing healthier, cleaner options to align with what they thought was their competition: “fast-casual” restaurants such as Panera.[5] As it turns out, McDonald’s customer base is interested in fast food, such as burgers and fries instead of wraps and salads.5
Therefore, when analyzing industry trends and competitors to create or redesign a strategic plan, I believe greater emphasis needs to be placed on an organization putting their unique aim at the forefront. Otherwise, it becomes too easy for companies to sway with the times or follow what appears to be working for others, creating problems for themselves as they drive away the customer base to whom they initially appealed.



[1] Cheang Ming, “Trends for 2017 show wellness and foods link to grow,” CNBC, Dec 2016, http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/30/trends-for-2017-show-wellness-and-foods-link-to-grow.html.
[2] Panera Bread, 2017, https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/home.html.
[3] “Panera Bread Company Annual Report 2000,” Panera Bread, 2001, https://www.panerabread.com/content/dam/panerabread/documents/financial/2000/ar-2000.pdf.
[4] Kate Taylor, “A clean-food revolution is sweeping fast food, but Panera’s CEO still has one major concern,” Business Insider, 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/panera-completes-clean-food-commitment-2017-1.
[5] Julie Jargon, “McDonald’s decides to embrace fast-food identity,” The Wall Street Journal, Mar 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/mcdonalds-to-expand-mobile-delivery-as-it-plots-future-1488390702. 

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