I worked for an organisation and was asked this question by the CEO: “Can we knock this out this week?” The Question left me momentarily speechless.
The need for speed in our world is understandable. However, “knocking out” the strategy work that creates the foundation for the survival and/or success of your business isn’t typically something you crank through in a week.
In part, the use and abuse of S.W.O.T. or similar templates allow people to think that strategy work is something that you crank through mechanically. Even if I use the Blue Ocean Strategy approach, which I find quite appropriate, there is no one magical template, framework, or tool that short-circuits the hard work and thinking of strategy.
What does strategy creation cover?
The work of strategy is some of the most challenging thinking work a firm’s members will do, and, it’s never really finished. Strategy is a process, not an event, and the work of evaluating, diagnosing, and choosing are never-ending activities.
Strategy work gives teams the filters and frames to assess and make decisions. It also provides the mechanism for turning ideas into actions.
I empathize with the executive’s underlying angst over timing. They lead their 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.
“I am excellent in strategy, I have built this company over 20 years” – said my CEO. “Everything you need to create our future strategy is there” – he went on. In my reply I explained that in our VUCA world there are 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.
The ugly truth about strategy
The question is never, “How long will this strategy work take?” Rather, it’s something like “How can we leverage strategy to make smarter “yes” and “no” decisions and grow a healthy business?” I advocate an agile approach to strategy with a series of sprints that bring it to life and make it part of the operating scheme of the business. I also teach teams to self-sustain this process. And yes, you can get started even in an afternoon, but the work never actually stops.