11 years, 14 days ago

A Strategy by Any Other Name

Link: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TheBusinessArchitect/~3/nt9dNj76zd0/

What is strategy?

RoseThat question pops up a lot and everyone seems to have an answer. Just not the same answer. However, one thing is clear. Most people and I mean truly smart people often get strategy wrong. So wrong in fact that that many executives give up on strategy altogether. I once was in a meeting with the top executives of a Fortune 500 company where the CEO declared, “I don’t want to see any more strategic plans!” (More on strategic plans in a minute). Unfortunately, organizational leaders are not very precise when they use the “S” word. For some, strategy is a goal as in: “Our strategy is to double the size of the company”. For others it is a statement of intent: “Our strategy it to become a global player”. Then there is strategy as a plan as in: “Our strategy is to move our New York offices to San Francisco”. Strategy can also refer to the entire strategic landscape including vision, goals, approaches, and objectives. Executives often refer to their business model as their strategy. No wonder we are somewhat confused. Here is a typical experience.

A client recently asked me to review their organization’s strategy. They had twelve strategy related documents with names like Strategic Plan – Five Year View, Strategic Drivers and Strategy, Customer Experience Vision and Roadmap, and Technology Strategy. In the over 200 pages included in the documents I was able to identify 40 “strategic statements” – things I interpreted as attempts to declare a strategy. Of these, seven were true strategies, though not thoroughly defined – and the rest were a collection of objectives, goals, projects, aspirations, needs, vision, and good intentions. This example is not an outlier. It is representative of the strategy work I see on a regular basis.

Strategic planning versus strategy crafting

Many in leadership positions confuse strategic planning with strategy crafting. Strategy crafting is the role of the strategist. Its emphasis is growing organizational capabilities in order to attain something new or at least significantly different. Strategy crafting envisions a better future, organizational transformation, and driving substantive change. It brings new insights and perspectives.

Strategic planning is exactly that – planning. Its emphasis is on forecasting resource demand and as such focuses on demand awareness, demand growth projections, resource alignment, and financial forecasting. Strategic planning is incremental in nature, indicating how current resource needs will develop over time. This is a planning role. It creates new information.

Well-defined strategy

Strategies are agreed-upon approaches to attaining a goal or solving a problem. Approach is the key word here. While goals and visions represent the desired future state, strategies show the way forward. Strategies ensure the organization is aligned in its execution. Well defined strategies:

Are targeted. Strategies have specific endpoints they intend to achieve. The endpoint can be a future state, vision, goal, or solved problem. Often, multiple strategies are required to achieve the final destination. A given strategy might also only take the organization part of the way there.

Force decisions. Strategies are not just about declaring what an organization is going to do. They also declare what the organization will not do. If there isn’t enough detail and clarity to force decisions, then it isn’t a strategy.

Provide guardrails. Well-crafted strategies create clear boundaries that allow independent action. Employees can unmistakably ascertain which methods are appropriate and which are not.

The exact details that make up a well-crafted strategy can differ depending on the type of strategy: business, operational, or organizational. I will discuss these details in a later post.

The bottom line:_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Strategy work is harder than most people think. It is exceedingly difficult to crisply and clearly articulate strategy in a way that provides clarity across the organization. Well-designed strategy is a little like handcrafted bourbon. It is unique, strong, and a little exhilarating.

Tagged: Business Architecture, Strategy