Business strategy is generally considered the domain of those who have experienced life and feel the need to profess. What you also see in most cases, is people in Management positions who feel they are the most suited to do so.
In most organizations, there is almost a childlike enthusiasm to develop strategies. And they do get developed for everything from the car park to the next ten years of market share expansion and marketing of new products being developed.
There are sizeable teams that work on market data, the organizations penetration into the said market or region, the speed at which this battle would ensue and also the spoils that victory would bring. The complicated models secure many jobs for years on end. Once done, the next phase becomes the ever so important presentation that must be done to get the views of the organizational professors who have been there and done that. Thumbs up and its cheers and celebrations on a significant milestone achieved.
Once done, it’s time to start working on the next best thing, another strategy that is going to move the proverbial needle so far that most odometers would be ashamed of themselves. Organizations go through this process of business strategy multiple times a year, year on year. I have always wondered how many actually believe that the effort they spent in building these strategies have actually paid the returns that the sophisticated models promised.
Having spent time at both ends of the spectrum, you come to realize that business strategy is only as good as the execution that accompanies it.
In a lot of cases, what tends to happen is the team that develops the strategy tends not to be the team that executes it.
Good strategies need to ensure that the team that will eventually execute is a core part of the team that develops it
The execution team is given a play book of how the model was developed, what they should do to get it right without necessarily buying into the process. I have come across in my career senior leaders who are so confident about their abilities as strategists, they practically give you a roadmap to life only issue being it’s their life and not yours that they give you the plan to and then wonder why you can’t get anything right.
Good strategies need to ensure that the team that will eventually execute is a core part of the team that develops it. This, however, is just the start. What you almost need with all such plans, is a resident cynic who is willing to poke a hole in every assumption that you come up with not because that is what they enjoy doing but because they help you see through your biases and blind spots. I remember a market penetration strategy where our organization which had a four percent market share in a commoditized industry was going to capture 40 percent of the market in two years because of a key ingredient (giving no heed to the fact that the market leader with seven percent share had a similar product that was not doing well).
Developing strategies is by no means an easy task, hence, it’s a path one should tread on with caution. It is resource intensive and gives you more heart ache than a Paris catwalk would. Far too many organizations embark on multiple business strategies crisscrossing each other several times over that any quantification becomes almost impossible. Organizations should be very clear on what really needs a strategy and they should be very few in numbers. The rest of the organizational effort should go into executing these few strategies.
Where management plays a big part is in ensuring that execution takes place but also in ensuring that strategies developed are executable and teams are held accountable. Too many times, teams are not held accountable for the projects and strategies that they work on; failure almost becomes a rite of passage to the next big strategy.
Business strategy is about taking the organization to the next level. Updated research is clearly showing that working on multiple critical projects at that same time for individuals is actually counterproductive. Organizations are no different; they are a collective of individuals who by their nature can only work on a few things well at any given time. When you apply the permutations that get thrown up with multiple strategies being worked on, no wonder organizations suffer from strategy paralysis.
I like to think of business strategy as the focus that an organization needs to develop in moving itself into a superior position where less is more. Management, ministers must ensure that focus on the few is paramount over the excitement of chasing every new shiny idea down. That being said, Execution will always be King!