Friday, September 25, 2015

How to Criticize Strategy via Questioning

The strategy is a living ever-evolving pivoting mechanism.

A common definition of strategy is the choices made by a firm on where and how it chooses to compete and cooperate in order to achieve its goals and objectives and strive to fulfill its mission. Businesses all need some sort of strategy since anything is easier to steer once in motion, but much of the joy comes from the journey, not the destination, The road to somewhere can be arrived at by many different routes. Nowadays, agility eats strategy for lunch, should you still make a plan, and how to criticize via questioning, and make a truly executable strategy?

Make time to step out of the daily running of your business to criticize your strategy via questioning. Doing this will definitely pay huge dividends. “What don't I see?" means "Where is the potential?" In other words, what strategy, product, or initiative is not evident now but, with a few adjustments or redirection, can emerge. Here is a set of critical questions that a strategy formulation addresses, but it's very tempting to 'pull the structure lever' too early before you have decided on:

  • Which products/services in which markets with what emphasis?

  • Which capabilities need to be developed or acquired to make that happen;

  • Which do processes need to be improved or transformed?

  • What capacity - for marketing, sales, manufacturing, etc., and for projects and management - will you need?

  • What structure will move these products to these markets with these capacities and processes?

In any organization, there are many obvious Undesired Effects (UDEs) that must be addressed because doing so creates value, improves EBITDA, FFO or ROI. Looking for something you don't see is profound in theory but not practical in reality because this would suggest a lack of strategic direction. Hence, you always need to be curious and ask yourself this kind of question, otherwise, you will miss the upcoming opportunities and threats for your company, product, and business model. if you know exactly what you are looking for (problem or UDE) you are more apt to recognize it when you see it. Start with the symptoms and drill down, you will be able to find and resolve the UDEs through Root Cause Analytics (RCA). With business environments changing at an ever faster pace, the strategy must be understood as a dynamic living problem and less of an asynchronous plan-then-execute task. For sure, a sound analysis is required to formulate some options for a winning strategy (the 'science'), but "you cannot prove a victory before it is won." So strategy needs to be conceived of as contingent, as a 'going-in' position to take to market. What's required then is an attentive engagement with the target environment critically.

Apply the logic process and the strategy building tools in crafting an effective strategy.  "Strategy" is definitely a different beast nowadays, because the speed of change is accelerated, it might be less about five years planning horizons and more about how to continually adapt to changes in the marketplace caused by disrupting technologies and consumer behaviors. Also, strategic development is too often seen as a linear process, but it is, in fact, a cyclical process that needs constant attention and tuning within bounds. This process defines an approach which will flush out the important issues such as SWOT, PEST, Blue Ocean, etc.  So the “art” comes in both aspects - initial strategy formulation is a highly creative process, and so better strategic options usually result from a more creative and open process. Strategic foresight is a methodology by which an organization anticipates a range of alternative futures and then scenario-based planning to adopt a strategy that enables an adaptive stance for the organization, from which it can flex plans and execution as the actual future unfolds. A more cyclical approach also allows more checks and balances and makes it easier to evaluate progress vs. reality and market trends, which are moving too quickly to be taken for granted.

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 so strategy and execution are no longer linear steps, but a dynamic continuum.


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