If you’ve seen the news today, Primark owner Associated British Foods says the fashion chain has had "another magnificent year", with total sales up 16% to £4.95bn. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29893099

AB Foods, Primark’s owner, credited an increase to the growing number of Primark stores, and the popularity of its autumn/winter and spring/summer ranges, for the stellar performance.

What’s the secret though? It’s not just because it’s cheap. Primark’s womenswear commands a LOT of column inches from serious fashion journalists, with its ranges indicating the catwalk trends that are set to hit the high street.

I remember Nick Bubb from Retail Week writing about Primark last year, saying that “Primark’s buyers have always been good at doing deals with suppliers and the strength of the supply chain remains a huge asset for the business – Primark couldn’t sell clothes for the ultra-low prices that they do without being highly efficient at sourcing.” http://www.retail-week.com/comment/nick-bubbs-verdict-primark-what-is-the-secret-of-its-success/5048561.article

I absolutely agree with what Bubb says, but just like Lidl (if you read my blog last week), this brand has a winning strategy which makes it so uber exportable and successful.

Here are 5 helpful thoughts to bear in mind when you develop a winning strategy:-

1. Doing is harder than thinking

Many senior managers work really hard to develop excellent strategies and then wonder why they fail.

Successful execution usually required acceptance and belied from all those who have to implement the strategy not just the creator. Consider sharing your strategic deliberations with EVERYONE involved in its implementation. Invite their participation as appropriate, and at least their comments.

2. Action plan

Strategy development can only happen with time-bound actions and agreed responsibilities.

Because many busy people hate to volunteer a thought or idea if they think they are going to be landed with the responsibility for developing it, why not consider drawing up the Action Plan at the END of your session rather than as you proceed?

This will help you make sure that the necessary actions are evenly and reasonably distributed.

3. Factor in people

Bright, senior managers with keen operational focus and a firm eye on the financial and market outcomes, often need reminding that they need to factor in the ‘softer’ elements of strategy development if their strategic thinking is to be successful.

Not just the impact on the employees but on other stakeholders, customers and suppliers of course (as ‘people’ as well as organisations) and the local community.

Never forget ‘People’ can be really good at sabotaging any strategy if you don’t consider and engage them.

4. 'Eyes-up' from today’s detail

Members of functionally organised, operational and executive Board are often most used to dealing with immediate issues. ‘Dreaming and scheming’ about how the world might look in a time still to come, does not always come naturally to many.

So make sure your strategy development team is encouraged to look ahead, to lift their eyes above their immediate horizons and to ‘look around corners.’ Work ON the business not IN it.

5. Break the mould

Winning strategies rarely involve ‘doing what we always did’ – because then you ‘always get what you always got!’ This isn’t to say you shouldn’t ‘stick to the knitting’. Rather, ask yourself whether the way you ‘knit’, where you ‘knit’ and what you ‘knit’ is still appropriate, even whom you ‘knit’ for and who should do the knitting? (You may even ask why you ‘knit??!).

To develop a winning strategy often means doing things differently, as does all improvement. So encourage your colleagues to think outside the ‘well-established’.

If your senior influencers may not like this or hold ‘self-evident’ truths that may possibly be worth an updated challenge, show them these tips!

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