Sunday, October 12, 2014

Is There Such Thing as a "Perfect" Strategy

"It is better to be roughly right than exactly wrong." - Albert Einstein 

The strategy is both art and science, there’re numerous debates to brainstorm strategic thinking and strategy making, “It is better to be roughly right than exactly wrong.” -Albert Einstein. What do you think about that point of view? And is there such thing as a perfect strategy?

Strive for perfectness, but live with the best opportunity. The Strategic Plan may be perfect for a moment in time and then things change. A strategy is a combination of an origin, a destination and a route to get from origin to destination. If it were possible to have a perfect strategy, then it should start with a very precise and accurate evaluation of where you are now (origin) to be continued with a relevant and realistic objective (destination). Then you may find the route based on the right means and capabilities. However, since we are living in a highly dynamic digital environment, there will be many different routes and the perfect route of today maybe a disaster tomorrow. So "perfectness" will have a too low probability and too short lifespan to really be considered.

The strategy should stay focused, not perfect. What is meant by "perfect"? The strategy shows how to reach your goal in a certain time frame. The longer the time frame is, the more likely is that the strategy has to be modified during the journey. An organization has a vision of what it will achieve, that is broken down to goal to reach in different time frames, BHAG in the range of 5-10 year strategy is break down to yearly goals and maybe monthly targets. If "perfect" means the only way and that no changes to the strategy should be necessary, then there is no "perfect" strategy. If your goal is to increase profitability, a strong strategy may be to identify and focus your resources on attractive segments where you are able to fulfill important customer needs better than competition.

The strategy is only "a means to an end - not an end in itself." Thus, your strategy should not be seen as a straightjacket but rather as a roadmap clearly pointing out the goal, describing the terrain and the chosen route and under the known and assumed conditions. Even the best thought-out and documented strategy will not fully survive the first contact with the customer nor encounter with competition. The strategy is the "way" you choose to reach the goals in the business plan. The strategy is always flexible in order to reach the goals. You, therefore, evaluate your strategy periodically in connection with the Integrated Business Planning. You will spend years to define THE perfect strategy, to align the C-levels and the Board... at the end your environment will have changed, and you will need to start the loop again.

The strategy can only be “perfect” for only a moment. For a "perfect strategy" to exist everything and everyone would have to remain constant, unchanged including time. The moment something changes there is a possibility that the strategy will have to change to adapt. Even when individuals change, their perspective of the situation changes thus possibly causing the strategy to change. The objective is not to strive for a perfect strategy but to have the flexibility to change with change while remaining focus on the desired outcome. A strategy is chosen from possible options and its success is based on the occurrence or nonoccurrence of one or more events. Strategy rides on probability and its chance of success is never 100%. For this reason, there is no such thing as perfect strategy. All strategies are imperfect when time flows and change accelerated. The only perfect thing in a strategy is the lesson its outcome offers. Failure or success of the strategy is a great lesson to the strategist...... and the alternative to strategy are surprises and disaster. 

Nothing is perfect in this world, and that will include 'strategy.' The strategy is both art and science. It is important to note corporate strategy is about how to fulfill the unique vision of the future not about the past. It is an art, an innate skill possessed by a few, but claimed by many. One can get very close to perfection but who will be the judge - the originator/creator, user or the affected/customer? Talking about perfection is just an academic debate. You always should define your strategy what the up and down risks are and if realized, what to change. A strategy is not a stubbornly inflexible tool, but you must have reasons for change and drive consistent actions out of that change.

The perfectly timely execution is superior. There cannot be any perfect strategy, the beauty lies in flawless and perfectly timed execution. The perfect "strategy" is the one that considers the available time, resources, budget and information, and evolves over time. How perfect - is generally determined after the strategy is implemented and the outcomes are measured. If it worked, then it is a Perfect Strategy and the leader is hailed as a genius. If it failed, it is a failed strategy and we know what happens to the leader. The key to a successful (instead of perfect) strategy depends on if all contributing and derivative factors are clearly examined, due diligence is properly done and are the business leaders ready to take risk!! The Strategic Plan would require constant monitoring, update etc to make sure it can deliver on the strategy or strategies proposed. All depends on which outcome provides the most valuable learning experience that can be utilized for future decisions/steps. You either win or you learn. If you have done neither, then you have truly failed.

There’s no perfect strategy, but the agile strategy is on the way, it’s the good enough strategy that adapts to the changes, a realistic and actionable strategy, cascading it into short-term, mid-term and long-term actions... and assess it frequently! Although a perfect strategy is a fiction, this must NOT be an excuse for poor thought through plans and changes of direction with every change of the wind as a proof of flexibility and adaptability. So a perfect strategy does not exist, but the search for a consistent strategy with consequential actions is a MUST.


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