I worked as a strategy consultant for an organization, temporarily tremendously understaffed for the volume of business they generated and the complexity of work they do as part responding to RFPs and compiling high volume tenders. Apparently, hardly anybody had the time to support my data and internal intelligence gathering process, so I had to put my sleeves up and find myself all what I had wanted. That was fun, however one day the CEO nocked on my door and asked: “Will the strategy be ready by tomorrow?”
Being a trained coach and having led numerous sales and general meetings, training courses in multiple locations in Europe and the Gulf region, my exes opened wide and my heart beat just took a “day foo” for a moment.
“Pardon me?”- I asked myself.
In today’s turbulent word the need for speed is inevitable. Your organization does not need to be agile in all aspects to realize that a day here or an hour there may put you out from a Business deal. However, you typically do not put together a document (based on lines of thoughts, evaluation of options etc.) in an afternoon or evening. Especially if your survival and your success is at risk.
Using certain frameworks, BCG, SWOT or even my favorite, Blue Ocean Strategy, people assume that strategy work is something that you do mechanically and that you do it overnight
The work of strategy is one of the most challenging work an associate will do. The “ugly truth” is that it’s never really finished. Strategy creation is an organic process, not an event, but a never-ending work of gathering, analyzing, evaluating and choosing. Especially if you realize that to implement it, you need to change the organizational culture.
Like a fellow coach Art Petty wrote: “I empathize with the executive’s underlying angst over timing. He’s leading an exciting, entrepreneurial business with nearly endless options and potential vectors. Planning to spend time away from the tornado-like environment of daily operations and opportunities seems unappealing and stressful”.
The very reasons of too many choices and too many opportunities chasing too few resources, is why strategy is needed. Right now, there’s no filter on what to do and what not to do. Every idea seems like a potential winner in isolation”, but in complexity, chasing half of them will not take the corporates really forward.
My humble response to this executive was centered around the idea to rephrase the question to something like this: “How can we leverage strategy to make smarter ‘yes’-es and “no”-s to create a sustainably growing business?” How can you create a culture, which is governed by the corporate mission and values and in which there are reoccurring “strategy sprints” – leasing the term from agile software development? How can you create an organizational culture, which, on top of everything recognizes “creativity” as well as allows for failures without punishment, but encourages learning from failures? If such an environment is created, everyone will recognize that strategic planning never actually stops and strategy does not have to be put together overnight. Then everyone will understand that as there is “fast food” and “fast fashion,” there is also “fast strategy”. However, this “fast strategy” is not characterized by how fast it is put together (i.e. overnight), but by how fast the teams react to the changes in the competitive environment and how fast they can change the corporate strategy.