I just finished a great article in Harvard Business Review called "What is Strategy, Again?" by Andria Ovans (an HBR editor). Andria outlines seminal articles and books on strategy.
Now I view strategy as fishing the intersection of Technology, Market and Business (TMB) for a "Theory of the Company". Many of the books Andria references are in my 60 Minute Marketing MBA Presentation .
The article groups 40 years of strategy books, journal articles and consultants. They fall under these three headlines...
1) Do Something Different
2) Build upon what you already do
3) React opportunistically to emerging possibilities
Her article lead me to another HBR article "Why Strategy Execution Unravels - and What to do About It" by McGrath & McMillan . Their research from 8,000 managers in 250 companies found five myths people had about execution. The research is continuing along with experiments at 40 companies where they make changes and measure the impact on strategy execution. Here are the five common myths they've found:
1) Execution equals Alignment
- rowing in the same direction, "smart" goals, KPI's/MBO's, adequate funding ...ISN'T IT
2) Execution Means Sticking to the Plan
- grit and gutting it out...ISN'T IT
3) Communication equals Understanding
- regular communication to reinforce goals...ISN'T IT
4) A Performance Culture Drives Execution
- Israeli commando, seal team 6, never miss a beat...ISN'T IT
5) Execution Should be Driven from the Top
- Larry Bossidy, TJ Rogers, Henry Nicholas kick butt "I'll show you discipline"...ISN'T IT
So what is it?
I've noticed execution problems at even well run companies when trying to execute a strategy, which led me to some observations.
1) Since strategy is fishing a set of Technology, Market and Business (model) choices to filter opportunities, focus resources and build ecosystems, then having STUDIED ALL POSSIBLE TECHNOLOGY, MARKET and BUSINESS OPTIONS, WHAT HAS AND HASN'T WORKED IS NECESSARY TO DEVELOP TRUE EXPERTISE ( the space is not that big and can be pared down heuristically pretty readily).
"True expertise requires making all possible mistakes" -Neils Bohr
2) I've observed that a clear strategy in the hands of the senior people when the company gets big doesn't usually work. McGrath &McMillan identify "Distributed Leaders" that get things done inside and outside the company as the key players, not just senior management. The org chart is not a map of power and influence in a company. In fast changing environments those closest to decisions need a strategic compass.
The Distributed Leaders need to learn and love to fish for the possible TMB combinations that fit their company. They need to love learning and talking about TMB strategies so they can synthesize ON-THE-FLY the agile decisions today's organizations need to make. New management paradigms like Holacracy as practiced by Tony Hsieh @ Zappos go much farther than I'm describing, but has ways to structure some of the same ground.
Bottom line is that the Distributed Leaders must love the strategy fish and learn the essence of what has worked, what hasn't and why.
Distributed Leadership needs a lesson in Love