16 Jul 2012  Research & Ideas

Are You a Strategist?

Corporate strategy has become the bailiwick of consultants and business analysts, so much so that it is no longer a top-of-mind responsibility for many senior executives. Professor Cynthia A. Montgomery says it's time for CEOs to again become strategists.

 

"What are the first three words that come to mind when you hear the word 'strategy'?" That's the free-association exercise Cynthia A. Montgomery gives to mid-career business leaders in her Executive Education classes at Harvard Business School. Seasoned executives, they respond with "plan," "vision," "direction," "focus," "advantage."

Emissions testing fraud is a widespread problemTo Montgomery, the Timken Professor of Business Administration, this is indicative of a disturbing trend.

"We've lost sight of where strategies come from and the distinctive role leaders play in the process," she says. In her new book, The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs, Montgomery discusses when that disconnect happened, why it's a problem today, and how leaders can turn themselves back into strategists.

(Read an excerpt from The Strategist.)

According to Montgomery, the divorce of strategy and leadership was an inadvertent result of academic research that started to take hold in the 1980s and '90s. The work brought much-needed economic thinking to strategy's underpinnings. It armed legions of MBAs and strategy consultants with frameworks and techniques to help managers analyze their industries and position their firms for competitive advantage. It also made it very easy for leaders to think of strategy solely as an analytical exercise. "If we're being honest, I was part of the problem," Montgomery says.

Montgomery and fellow HBS professor Michael Porter—who is considered to be the father of the modern strategy field—were among the first researchers who began to study strategy through a rigorous, scientific process, using large empirical samples to look at regularities across industries and firms. "We were proud of it!" Montgomery says. "And rightly so: the work yielded a number of well-grounded insights that have had a powerful impact on practice. But the benefits have not come without costs."

Montgomery maintains that strategy has been narrowed to a competitive game plan, separate from a firm's larger sense of purpose. This has led to the eclipse of the leader's unique role as arbiter and steward of strategy. The exaggerated emphasis on sustainable competitive advantage has drawn attention away from the fact that strategy must be a dynamic tool for guiding the development of a company over time.

"Strategy has become more about formulation than implementation, and more about getting the analysis right at the outset than living with a strategy over time," Montgomery says. "As a consequence, it has less to do with leadership than ever before."

Leading strategy

Montgomery explains that leading strategy requires confronting four questions: What does my organization bring to the world? Does that difference matter? Is something about it scarce and difficult to imitate? Are we doing today what we need to do in order to matter tomorrow? Being a strategist means living these questions, she says.

For a leader, becoming a strategist starts with getting clear on why, whether, and to whom your company matters. While that may sound obvious at face value, it's something that regularly stymies the veteran leaders in Montgomery's executive classes. "We'll be talking about Nike or Apple, and the participants will be praising the authenticity of the company and the clarity of its strategy," she says. "And then I'll ask a participant at random, 'Do you have that clarity in your company?' And there's always a pause. That pause gives them away."

To illustrate the importance of clear purpose, The Strategist touts Swedish home goods retailer IKEA, founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad-when he was 17 years old. From its early days, the book explains, IKEA set out to create "a better everyday life for the many." (http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/about_ikea/the_ikea_way/our_business_idea/a_better_everyday_life.html ) The retailer did this by addressing an unmet market need, offering customers an extensive range of practical, well-designed furnishings at low prices. This driving purpose steered IKEA to succeed not just on low prices but also with a singular customer experience that no other retailer has yet managed to duplicate.

"IKEA has made very clear choices about who they will be and to whom they will matter, and why," Montgomery says.

Clarity of purpose behooves corporations and nonprofits alike, Montgomery adds. "Look at Doctors Without Borders. If you go to the website, you'll see incredible clarity about what they do and why they do it. They won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, and they didn't get it for being murky about who they are and why they matter."

That said, a compelling purpose is just the beginning of a strategy. "It gives you the right to play, and puts you in the game," the book states. But at the root it's only an idea.

Strategists also must lead the charge in creating organizations that can deliver on their intentions. That means building business models with mutually reinforcing parts. Rich in organizational detail, and anchored on purpose, such systems of value creation "make strategy the animating force in a company," says Montgomery. "They're the crucial link between lofty ideas and action."

Emissions testing fraud is a widespread problemTo visualize such a system, Montgomery recommends the time-honored "strategy wheel," in which purpose is the hub and the supporting factors are the spokes. Drawing from an HBS case study, she shows how Gucci essentially used such an approach to support a purpose--"fashion-forward, high quality, good value"--that saved it from failure in the 1990s.

Who is a strategist?

Montgomery equally stresses the importance of recognizing how a strategist lives and leads. To that end, in the book she cites not only economic gurus, such as Joseph Schumpeter, but also philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, and poet Mary Oliver, who wrote, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?"

Incorporating the role of the strategist into one's identity is important because leading strategy is not so much a task as it is a never-ending quest. "For most companies, a long-run sustainable competitive advantage-the holy grail of strategy-is a dangerous mirage," Montgomery warns. "The longer you can keep an advantage vibrant, the better. But any advantage is better thought of as part of a bigger story, one frame in a motion picture."

Although a company may change what it makes, the services it provides, the markets it serves, and even its core competencies, its continued existence depends on finding and continuing to find a compelling reason for it to exist. Shepherding this never-ending process, being the steward of a living strategy, is the defining responsibility of a leader.

And while her goal is to embolden top leaders to embrace the role of strategist, Montgomery believes it's important for employees at all levels of an organization to start thinking like strategists, too.

"What [people] do, and why they do it, should be driven by strategy," she says. "If the clarity isn't there, they should push for it and think more actively about how they can be communicating upward. Learning to be a strategist doesn't happen overnight. It's like a muscle that you have to flex. Don't wait to see if you might someday get the chance to drive strategy. It's a skill and a disposition that take time to hone."

Question for leaders

You're at the podium addressing a group of new recruits. One of them asks about the strategy of the business. You have two minutes to explain. Could you do it? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Cynthia A. Montgomery, The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs, HarperBusiness, 2012. The author gratefully acknowledges background information from "Gucci Group N.V. (A)" by Mary Kwak and David Yoffie, Harvard Business Publishing, HBS case study 9-701-037.

Comments

    • Rebecca
    • Project Manager

    As a person naturally inclined to strategize, I will express my own frustration in what I see as the fundamental problem.

    I think this article highlights it well. Drive for making a "business case" using "the numbers" causes us to move away from developing strategy. Strategy is about what is possible based on imagination. As such, it cannot be bound by numbers and logic. Business leaders have forgotten how to dream. Dreams are the seeds of strategy. We want a "sure bet"; one that will provide dividends for shareholders. And if we can't prove the "sure thing" to ourselves, despite what our hearts might be telling us, we go with the numbers.

    Where are the Walt Disneys and Steve Jobs of the world? Hiding behind the MBA's yelling "You are going in the wrong direction!"

     
     
     
    • Chris Exline
    • CEO, Home Essentials

    The Strategist is a tour de force for executives that want their firms to excel beyond buzz words and focus groups to make a difference. Her book enables leaders to transform strategy from imposition to impact. No singular person has helped our company codify our "statement" more than she. I find it hard to fathom how we could have galvanized our company around a common purpose without the guidance so eloquently detailed in her book.

     
     
     
    • Daniel Dornan

    Strategy is ofter perceived by "circling the bullseye" of successful companies. Strategy defines the steps, resources, and commitment needed to achieve a goal. The question is whether the goal is clearly defined and is broad enough to accommodate changing conditions. I prefer to think of strategy in the same way one would think about a military campaign, such as when Julius Caesar was planning for the Gallic Wars. The best strategists are those who can project the future based on an understanding of the past, recognition of the challenges of the present, and an appreciation of the steps needed to move from the present circumstances to the desired future. I prefer to hypothesize the future state and work backward to determine the steps and tactics needed to move toward that future state, allowing for the inevitable threats and opportunities that arise in the interim. A true leader has a clear vision of the future state, a full understanding of the resources needed to get there, strong commitment to achieving the goal, and insights into both the advocates and opponents of change and how to manipulate both to the advantage of the strategy. Sadly in the US the strategic leader has been relegated to focusing on tactics to satisfy the short-term expectations of stock analysts based on the results contained in quarterly reports. True strategic leadership needs to be multi-generational in scope with commitment to long-term goals that do not change with the fickeled nature of the stock market, guided by adherence to fundamental principles of customer service, fair play (honesty and integrity), product excellence, and public-minded conscience. As the old zen teacher taught: I plant acorns not for my own edification but for those generations to follow." Leadership + Strategy = Accomplishment

     
     
     
    • Adjoa Acquaah-Harrison

    Strategy takes a stand and bears the courage to accept the responsibility of failure or success. A great leader understands the logic of these things. Yes?

    Businesses are increasingly committing resources beyond profits, employees, and recognizing their responsibility to the communities where they derive success. Through corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sponsorships, company strategies are incorporating partnerships with nonprofit organizations and NGOs that make social impacts and add value back to their communities. Strategies are important for scaling-up or down, and taking a stand for the raison-d'etre.

    It makes sense for human beings to maximize the gift of our brains in ways that animals are unable to. Strategizing presents the opportunity to build organizations and institutions that "make sense" and if we are smarter, to also simplify, and make utilitarian, that which is complicated. Steven Covey, who just passed away a few days ago, has provided a legacy that makes sense to me, especially in his recognition of divine principles. Covey relies on the laws of the universe, part of human consciousness and conscience, teachings of the moral compass and reliance on these principles as the "true north" in one's life.

    True leaders learn to embrace their differences in order to define the truest north of their organization. They appreciate that the organization is not about any one of them and is the sum of all their collective talents, which calls for humility/moral compass. They learn how to handle the restraining forces; (the fear of change can tempt an organization to pull backwards, on one end, and unbridled ennui to sally forth with reckless abandon, on the other). Strategy provides the maturity, calculated steps, and organizational "cool head," all of which are girded by the collective moral compass to steer northward.

    I like Mr. Dornan's reference to the old Zen teacher's teaching, "I plant acorns not for my own edification but for those generations to follow." Leadership + Strategy = Accomplishment. Indeed!

     
     
     
    • Pete DeLisi
    • President, Organizational Synergies

    You address a very real problem. Strategy is important, but unfortunately, most senior managers do not know what they do not know about strategy. In many cases, they can do a pretty good job of strategic thinking, i.e., thinking creatively about their customers, products, markets and competition. What they don't know are the supporting elements --- the vernacular, the process, strategy tools and what leading experts are saying about strategy. You point out some of the reasons for the lack of strategic competence at the top, but I would add that there is no effective way for senior manasgers to learn strategy. Almost no one comes up through a strategy function and the business schools do a good job of teaching the theory of strategy, but few have experienced the practical side of strategy from working in a corporate capacity.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    As a student of strategy, this is enlightening. It is a confirmation of what Myles Munroe has repeatedly emphazised of the importance of the knowledge of the purpose of a thing. The creator of the earth has a purpose for everything He created including you the reader and me. The only way anyone or business or organisation will stand the test of time is identifying that purpose why they came into existence. A leader or CEO cannot lead himself or others without this knowledge.

     
     
     
    • Gerald Nanninga
    • Principal Consultant, Planninga from Nanninga

    The article sums it up well. If you have no reason for existing, then why do you exist? If there is no reason for customers to naturally prefer you, then you have to resort to "bribes" (price cuts and give-aways) to lure business. And that is usually a road to ruin.

    Strategists first have a reason for existing and then back it up with actions which reenforce that reason.

    The problem today is that companies don't want reasons and actions. They just want quarterly profits. As one CEO said to me: "Don't give me a strategy; tell me how to make money."

    For more on this topic, go to: http://planninga-from-nanninga.blogspot.com/2011/06/strategic-planning-analogy-399-most.html

     
     
     
    • Mark Pegues
    • President, Ujamaa Solutions LLC

    Greetings,

    Interesting article. We see strategy as many things but essentially we see it as "how to" move... We relate "why" to the purpose and "where" to the vision.

     
     
     
    • Andrei Mitran, Maj, USAF
    • 12 FTW Lead, Process Improvement, 12 Flying Training Wing

    Strategy answer: 12 Flying Training Wind ( I appreciate any feedback):

    We are providing the best training in the world for instructor pilots, navigators and remote piloted aircraft operators, while fostering a perpetual culture of technical perfection, procedural safety and strategic efficiency. In a world of exponential change, we are constantly adapting and seeking new opportunities to bridge effectiveness and efficiency within our training programs.

     
     
     
    • Laurence Rohde
    • Pricing / Cost Analyst, CLI

    Great subject matter strategy over time it has taken a backseat to price slashing for ease of a sale. It has also started in the backroom which is an understandable starting point, however, it seems to remain in the backroom without being communicated to the team results no true guidance or leadership setting the pace and only a select few involved who understand the direction. When the team dosen't know the direction it makes it difficult at best to see where team members fit or what value they can add to obtaining the goal set by the strategy.

     
     
     
    • Marcia Daszko
    • Consultant

    Leadership requires strategic, systems thinking. The leaders' job is to have the deep conversations to create a compelling purpose, the strategies and methods to accomplish it, and the environment where all employees can contribute creatively and collaboratively. This is their focus, to lead people (care for them) and optimize their whole system so the Sytem delivers the results. (not individuals.) Sadly, the executive management lacks leadership and strategic thinking. They are Focused on the results and numbers. This is wrong and is ruining corporations, organizations and schools. Being analytical has no our purpose in the executive suite.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    First make your objective clear and try to make prefect efforts with honesty to achieve.

     
     
     
    • Hugh Quick
    • home, none

    Nice to read that HBS is doing what it does so well; faces the facts and tells other people, whether they want to hear or not.

     
     
     
    • Deepak Sunar
    • District Officer, Rural Environment Development Center(REDC)

    It is quite fruitful for me. Actually, I am new in development sector and want to get success being a good planner, strategist, and programmer. Such important emails with quality products could shape a life of we like people.

    Thank you very much and lots of hopes.

     
     
     
    • vmraste
    • director, chhdr

    I call myself a contemplative activist.

    Contemplation is about strategising and being an activist means implementation of the strategy.

    I agree with the author.

     
     
     
    • Nitin Pujar
    • Principal/CEO, Maven Advisors

    Strategy in emerging markets also has an added element of what an entrepreneur or owner manager envisions and works on as the thing to do versus what a professional manager works with as a roadmap and larger purpose and direction. This dichotomy is interesting, as we have to define and deliver on 'strategy' differently for each!

    But we do find strategy of the efficiency and optimization kind is more often than not being used and abused more often. It is reduced to a roadmap to better profitability rather than to help define a better purpose to focus resources and energy on. This needs to change. Look forward to more along this line from the Author.

     
     
     
    • Dr Shantha P Yahanpath
    • CEO, www.totalwealthplan.com

    Strategising is a key driver of effective leadership. So, if one takes out strategising out of leadership one will end up with half-baked leadership.

    Dr Shantha P Yahanpath CEO/Lecturer

     
     
     
    • Dedy Irawan

    Strategy must be adressed before execution. It's an element of "why", and thus explain about corporate sustainability in the future. Nothing's more important than strategy. Every good strategy executors are leaders and our world needs more !

     
     
     
    • Guy Kemp
    • Information Project Manager, NCAHS

    Government organisations unfortunately write position descriptions which don't include this stuff. It's probably one the biggest issues with gov departments i.e. thats someone's job in the organisation to think about !

     
     
     
    • G.BALAKRISHNAN
    • INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR, GSL(INDIA) LTD

    was a consultant in 1983 to gujarat spinners ltd with 8000 spindles, board asked me can we make the company 100,000 spindles for synthetic spinning. said yes. how? we bring a new ceo, who will be 'flexible' in thoughts unlike exiting man. yea we have to bring from other core industries with multi product lines like automobiles. Bd asked go ahead . said compensation shd be flexible to attract talent, after all new incumbent takes a calculated 'risk' to try new ideas. in fact in a matter of 3 years he will make 100,000 spindles if we have business opportunity. Bd said create bus opportunity. yes, competitive exports with fancy yarns with surer alma multi twister we can make thousands of shades with the involvement of designers from Milan fashion design schools as export is to be to Europe. Bd said go ahead. Floated advertisements in inter national magazines for CEO and expert designers of reputed schools, making two independent adv ertisements. after rigors of interviewing in India and Europe we identified A project CEO and three designers for product development. project CEO is tasked with 100,000 spindles and giving free hand to upgrade cooling sheds after new sheds are built so that yarns are vibrant and have tensile strengths. imported a second hand plant of 100,000 spindles from Europe and fixed suitably in time bound manner and also we developed field designer supervisors to man shop floor, the mill started with 100,000 spindles produced yarns while markets are obtained by necessary marketing efforts with building a brand image and exports got boosted. yes we also trained workers in the span of time by motivating every one as strategic assistants and helpers and produced real good quality yarns so that importing weaving mills got best products, all that was done in the stipulated period and that way we did strategies with continuous strategy to augment, that way it went on the risk is minimized to zero level and profitability got built up. it sustained next 5 years well.

     
     
     
    • Joanne Spigner
    • VisionFirst

    A great article and spot-on comments. In our work we often see leaders confusing strategic work with producing a planning document. A plan has its time and place but needs to come after the future focused, non-linear thinking required to produce the clarity described in the article and book. We also see too much important strategy work that becomes "stuck at the top" of an organization, missing the broad-based engagement needed to produce clarity that is widely owned, well aligned and personally felt by all who need to deliver. Leaders who understand these realities see their organizations move further faster by investing in and leading this hard, often messy, work up front.

     
     
     
    • Richard Melrose
    • President and CEO, Vision21

    Enterprise strategy must start with enterprise purpose -- i.e. a clear, compelling, connection-worthy statement of societal (mass customer) service.

    With purpose well established, each business should operate as one system with one goal: accelerate purposeful value creation.

    Any business can systematically pursue that one goal, in the context of its own purpose, with a comprehensive, step-by-step, logically validated strategy.

    Strategic logic (i.e. necessity and sufficiency of goal-oriented steps) of avoids waste, aligns resources and underwrites success.

    r.melrose@vision21.us

     
     
     
    • MARSELLOS N.
    • CIVIL ENGINEER

    Definition of Leadership. When Alexander The Great was crossing a desert , one of his soldiers found and gave him in his helmet a small quantity of water . Alexander watched his thousands of soldiers, exhausted by the heat, and said , "Its not enough for everybody" and threw the water away . .This inspired them , and they shouted , "With you till the end of the World ". THATS LEADERSHIP !

     
     
     
    • A A Babul
    • MBAs (HRM), Bangladesh University of Professionals

    "Strategy" it varies one to another or organization to organization. It is the tactic of doing something at present, tomorrow, or future. Of course it is obviously true that the main purpose of 'business strategy' is to gain profit. For doing this we focus on the product, consumers, competitors, organization itself and take different tactic for winning the situation- it could be for short term or long term. Strategy it could be bad or good- it could be win or fail- but it does not stop; it is developed/changed time after time.

     
     
     
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC(India) Private Limited

    In nutshell, the new recruits would be told that our strategy is aimed at improving our business growth by keeping all stakeholders satisfied. For this, we are alert to meet the genuine demands and expectations of our clients and customers so that they remain with us throughout. Our employees show sensivity and remain respectful to all customers at all times. Our teams are assertively friendly with clients, all peers, juniors and seniors. They have respect for time management and delays are not permitted. We innovate, research and develop our systems and processes on ongoing basis. There is a learning environment and we are prepared to effect viable changes. Our strategies are subjected to review bythe Board of Directors which shows the concern highest exective level has for the overall improvements. The CEO works with the senior management to establish stronger communication links across the organisation to work as a united group throughout all sectors of the business, Solutions are quickly evolved if problems arise and all efforts are made to convert problems into opportunities. In short, we plan, do, check and act.

     
     
     
    • drajaganmohanreddy
    • associate professor, IPE,HYD

    excellent .should be an eye opener for those who wish to graduate from manager to a leader

     
     
     
    • Al Watts
    • Founder, inTEgro, Ic.

    A very insightful article, Cynthia; thank you. I especially like your points about not divorcing strategy from leadership and the importance of "mutually reinforcing parts" in organizations to execute strategy. It's always amazing how many organizations and leaders say they are one thing (strategy or values,) yet unknowingly undo that via hiring, promotion, performance management or pay practices. You and your readers might be interested in my book where I position integrity, as in "whole" leaders and organizations, as fundamental to the unity you speak of. More info at http://www.integro-inc.com/About/NavigatingIntegrityBook

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I can explain our strategy in two minutes in a sound bite but for new recruits to have a shared meaning of the strategy I would have to tell them a story about how the company has evolved and where it is right now and the future direction .

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Strategy is a combat term and for the sake of clarity itself should be removed from our jargon-laced business vocabulary. Could you imagine asking your wife, "what's your strategy with this garden?" I think that's in part why many business leaders don't "get" strategy, the terminology isn't befitting the subject.

    Someone here mentioned contemplation as the act of strategizing, I like that idea. But I think it's really about "approach." "The Inner Game of Tennis" by Timothy Gallaway was a book about approach guised as a guide about tennis. I suggest everyone read it because the idea is really very simple - the ball bounces, you hit it. Sometimes the ball bounces higher, so you'll have to "approach" it differently, but you'll still hit it. Sometimes the ball bounces short, again forcing you to adjust your approach, but you still hit it. Just as in business, you want to succeed, and a sound approach, even if it has to change (look at PayPal or Starbucks). Perhaps part of the issue, too, is that strategy is often viewed as a set-in-stone edict, when it should be viewed as more flexible as new opportunities are opened.

    But seriously, let's take strategy out for a long walk on a short pier. Isn't that a better approach?

     
     
     
    • Ahmed Y Issa
    • Head of sales, Aujan Industries Co.

    The strategy of the business is to clearly define who you are as an organization? What you do, why you do what you do and what is unique in what you are offering.

     
     
     
    • John Keck
    • Billing Mgr

    Speaking from a military perspective, strategy and tactics are often confused in the business environment: what we choose to do vs. how we choose to do it.

    In WWII, the United States debated whether to focus their "strategy" against a Germany-first or Japan-first option. Essentially, how many assets/resources are going to be devoted to the 'how we choose to do it."

    The debate was contentious at times, but once the decision was made to handle a Germany-first option (Japan second), the tactics followed -- whether to use/not use daylight bombing, utilizing a convoy system to resupply England, where and when to open a second front in Europe (D-Day, Africa, Italy, etc).

    Strategies are about making decisions And when we make a decision, we typically eliminate an alternative course of action. Likewise, tactics are usually much more flexible (i.e., the Americans would concentrate on daylight bombing vs. the English would do night-time bombing).

    Simply put, strategy is the overall campaign plan while tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective.

    It's no different in the business world.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    May we understand that the ends do not justify the means. Because there are no ends, there are only means. Paulo Coelho

     
     
     
    • Santosh Kuruvilla

    Values, Vision and tactics

    Any business that is built on strong values with very clear vision and sound tactics should be able to achieve sustainable competitive advantage as well as maintain itself in the long term for generations to come. However the problem arises when the real definition of strategy is either misunderstood or one of the three is neglected or compromised due to a variety of reasons. The fact is you do not have to be Nike, Apple or be an exception like IKEA to achieve and maintain sustainable growth; neither does it makes sense to emulate someone from an unrelated industry or use them as your benchmark. All you need to do is maintain your individuality / differentiating factors within your industry segment with a long term view.

     
     
     
    • Joseph Soueidi
    • COO, ATEME

    For me strategy is a daily work. You first set a direction, then you have so many choices and options to get where you have to be. You have to make sure that the organisation is delivering on its commitment day after day. This is a daily job of thinking and rethinking, doing and redoing, a continual process that never ends and that need to be continuously shaped.

     
     
     
    • Bruce Lynn
    • General Manager, Red Bee Media Piero

    The key thing to being an effective strategist is to start your sentences with the words 'the key thing'.

     
     
     
    • Douglas Grant
    • Corp. Finance CIO, Commerce Bancshares, Inc.

    I think the article is good, but misses an important point. That being, most CEOs should be developing the corporate vision. From that vision a strategic plan can be built. That said, I would modify your key questions as follows: What does my organization bring to the world? What does my organization do differently and does that difference matter? (Is there something about our product(s) that is scarce and/or difficult to imitate?) What do we need to do in order to matter tomorrow?

    Vision development is very important to every enterprise. Frequently the mindset/psychological make-up of a visionary is not the same as the mindset/psychological make-up of a strategist.

     
     
     
    • Ranga Rao
    • Higher Education Strategy Consultant, Self-employed

    In the context of a volatile global environment where change is both complex and fast-paced, and the fundamental premises of business models are being increasingly undermined,strategy is perhaps getting limited and diluted vis-a-vis leadership. The line between response and action is getting increasingly blurred.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    This article hits home with me! I strongly believe leadership is lacking in corporate strategy makers. Today's corporate strategists focus to much on short-term sustainability and not enough on long-term purpose.

    A clear separation exists between leaders and managers. Managers focus on winning, while leaders focus on learning from their failures. Leaders are nimble and adapt, while managers rely on hierarchy. Leaders get and give continuous feedback; whereas managers feedback is sporadic and conforms to hierarchical considerations. Leaders guide creative employee pusuits, while managers question them. Managers orient themselves to processes and question them. Leaders support autonomy.

    I firmly believe corporate managers at the top could use some help to see these differences and how they affect corporate strategy. Thank you for this insightful blog post.

     
     
     
    • Nosap
    • Resourcerer

    Great article, with two missing bits that may well be in the book:

    To live strategy you have to really know the work. You must be living the purpose of the organisation, meeting the punters and able to do the work. That's because, in the real world tactics are far more important than strategy. You can deploy a range of tactics without strategy and survive indefinitely. You can't survive on strategy without tactics. They are nearly mutually exclusive, or perhaps a light touch Venn diagram. Some banker who happens to hold a high position in an organisation cannot do strategy, unless the organisation is a bank!

    And that brings me to my second point! Being a huge fan of good strategy, the reason it is so confused in modern workplaces is due directly to the rise of leadership. That you can take some smiley arsed banker, wipe him down with some organisational orienteering and let him loose on a system that he knows nothing about in the hope that a touch of leadership (being a slightly more smashing person) will make up for his inherent lack of insight and capability in the purposeful work of the organisation.

    Most companies are full of great strategists and tacticians but you won't find them in the leadership.

     
     
     
    • saeed
    • DMD, AD

    i do agree with writer , its an important subject where it should be discuss more. since this start it was like a flu, every body infected with it , the idea her that before you start your strategist the CEO or the senior of the company or organization,should know what they want from this , where they want to be and what is the benefit to there society and environment. the strategy should be score card to the CEO or the board members so you can implement the right strategy not just a presentation, it should be a believe from the top hierarchy to low level in this way you will be a real strategist.

     
     
     
    • Nilesh Mistry
    • Materials Head, SE Electricals Ltd [Suzlon Group]

    Great leanings; thanks a lot!

    I believe strategy is setting directions while remaining focused on current and future sustenance. Strategy is a dynamics of deploying current resources for effective [May not efficient] value creation leading to collective growth of stack holders and society in general.

    Version of strategy varies with levels of organisation i.e. for top leadership, main area of focus could be future growth and sustainability [setting direction] where as for middle management balancing act - between leadership thought process and current status while for lower management is execution excellence.

    If everyone in the organization thinks alike CEO, understanding and implementation of strategy across enterprise becomes extremely difficult.

     
     
     
    • Kevin
    • Director of Organisational Development, Jesus Celebration Center-Kenya

    My approach towards strategy in what I do, has for a long time been shaped by a book called "a book of five rings-by miyamoto musashi". In it he talks about the steps that one takes from a novice(who does the basics) to the strategist(for whom right action flows as though without thought, but for whom the basics are still as important as day 1). I believe strategy means a complete understanding of a situation,and all relevant plus some seemingly irrelevant context.This comes from deep familiarization with the what is, the why it is and the what else it could be but its not. Then asking oneself, how do I stretch this to a new level?What more can this become? If we stop doing this thing in a particular way, what would change?

     
     
     
    • DWARAKANATH VALLAM
    • MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT, YESKAY CONSULTING SERVICES, BENGALURU, INDIA

    An excellent insight into the 'strategy'. I feel strategy making or 'strategising' is a dynamic activity and I am afraid has no holiday. Whereas the thinking aspect of 'strategy' is with leader/top management personnel the 'implementation' aspect is definitely with senior & junior managerial personnel. This is where the aspect of 'clarity' comes in and it is important that whoever we call as 'strategist' has to be crystal clear in his thoughts and processes of implementation.