Monday, June 1, 2015

How to Study Strategy and Shape a Strategist’s Mindset

A strategy is not a discourse, but quite possibly the articulation of a firm's strategy is the result of discourse.

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. "Strategy" should be in the DNA of anyone who is a member of the leadership team of an organization, but, as we know, that doesn't make it so, unfortunately, less than 5% of the population is a natural strategic thinker. What’s the effective way to study and craft strategy, and how to shape a strategic mindset?

The strategy, either deliberate strategy or emergent strategy becomes more critical due to the constant changes: We all know that the "good old days" of prospects knocking on "your" door are gone. More than ever, companies need to be innovative and think of new ways to bring in new business, while they do their best at developing supplemental revenues from their existing customers. While we are wrestling with our own fears about survival, we can't forget that many of our customers are wrestling with theirs. When we face our own fears and mobilize to grow, we can often choose who we target and how we sell to them. We can market to those who are hanging on to "doing what they always did" with messages suggest that if you buy our product/services -- you'll stay safe and survive. Or we can market to those who already understand that this is a time of opportunity -- if we can convince them that we are offering a product/service that will indeed help them grow. The real issue is that a strategy is, in many people's eyes, nothing more than an intention that needs to be tested in the marketplace or business environment. Some go as far as calling it a hypothesis that needs to be tested. If a strategy is being tested continuously, then the results must be evaluated and that's where strategy becomes a discourse. People within the organization rarely have congruent views and a discourse emerges about the strategy. Some use the power of analysis, others use the power of ideas, some use the power of position and others may use influence to shape the discussion. In the end, as managers and leaders, you arrive at a consensus that becomes the orthodoxy of strategy and may require a revolution in paradigm to change.

Strategy as a discourse offers a different take on strategic decision-making. The strategy is about one logic, one idea, one philosophy, thoughts toward achieving one fundamental dichotomy. One aims, 'why we are here' not why we are not. A re-thinking process of advancing a strategic game plan. The study of strategy as discourse is actually the study of organizational learning. A strategy is the organization's competitive "logic" manifested through organizational actions. This logic is acquired through a learning process involving discourse within the context of an organization's culture. The study of strategy as a discourse will significantly improve the understanding, execution, and measurement of strategic outcomes. A strategic study often brings about the 'actual change of tactics we really need and further toward to the act of doing things in horizontal ways through a systematic and fast tracking growth in line with institutional goals en route for accomplishment. However, Only if such discussions are adequately converted by those minds under the training in appropriate amounts, and they're in turn are ready to live with such inward changes within themselves and for the institution's better-ness. These processes of study strategy and their outcomes are highly influenced by the social context in which they take place. It is precisely this social context that makes studying strategy as a discourse so attractive. If you study strategy as a discourse, you effectively study how different actors (managers) construct discourses on strategy and apply them in certain social contexts. Thus, you are studying people and how people react in social contexts rather than studying strategy - strategy is merely a vehicle used to study the people.

A strategist’s mind: A strategist has an inquisitive mindset that always is curious, constantly gathering information, learning knowledge. But become skeptical about perceived information so that you examine everything well before accepting it for its real truths before advising it to others - keep your knowledge being valid; have experience, but must be up to date with business trends and essential technologies. This is the lifeblood as a strategy practitioner: (1) An understanding of the past and an understanding of the future so far as data permits; (2) ability to view the complete business system as an ecosystem with all its dependencies and interconnections. (3) The ability to tie these things together in order to develop actionable plans. (4) ability to identify key leverage points where the nonproportional impact can be made (5) ability to hypothesize interventions and iterate them till the right fit is made. Simply put, a strategist has knowledge, common sense and vision to bring all stakeholder together with right view and conduct.

At any point in time, a strategy can be articulated. Strategy as a discourse can be very fruitful as a means of understanding how people within organizations formulate, evaluate and disseminate their concept of the firm's or organization's strategy. However, we should be very cautious in the terminology because a strategy is not a discourse, but quite possibly the articulation of a firm's strategy is the result of discourse, not only within the organization but also externally.


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