February 02, 2006
Continuous Strategy

One of the innovations in the New York Times' redesign of their business section has been the new Saturday columns that feature pick hits from the online and print world.

This past week was a deliciously enticing pointer to an article in the January 2006 Harvard Business Review by Mankins and Steele about corporate strategy and staleness. In absence of a subscription, I can't get to the full article (well, maybe the library, bastion of goodness, will help), but the abstract is provocative. In effect, strategic plans fail because as soon as the calendar starts rolling, managers and projects - even if they were directly involved in the strategic planning process - start moving and deciding based on local needs. With discipline and luck, these can fit in the strategic plan. But in many cases they diverge, and through accretive factors by the end of the year the strategy has not moved, and the divergence of many decisions and projects can look remarkably like stagnation.

The authors argue that an ongoing strategy process is more effective. Constant discussion and growth leads to an ongoing strategy focus, rather than a pdf file on a share somewhere.

I had a conversation with a friend about similar issues sometime around the holidays. Regarding small companies, they always must try to move briskly in meeting the demands of their users, customers and investors, and important that they stay nimble. But the actors also need to focus on maintaining a larger set of goals - the product and service futures, the employee culture, those many items more intangible than making the buttons on the right side blue when in an onHover action. These larger goals should be relatively unchanging, but the means of meeting them may vary from quarter to quarter.

Merging the two discussions, it occurs to me that another ingredient is internal transparency. Rather than an organizational strategy handed down from on high, keep the strategy alive and available to people. Make it fluid. Heck, make it full of wikity collaborative goodness (my first thought upon reading the NYT summary, fwiw).

If everyone has some share in the strategy - if not in the highest level decisions, but in the understanding and undertaking, it will prove much more effective - and more strategically accomplishable as well.

Posted by esinclai at February 02, 2006 08:55 PM |

I've had this saved up for a while--another view on strategy, particularly the "disconnect between strategy and how resources are allocated," which is where many organizations get into trouble.

Posted by: Anne on March 21, 2006 07:55 AM
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