Avoid Pigeon Holed Approaches to Strategy

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Avoid Pigeon Holed Approaches to Strategy
subramanian, Business Consultant, India

Strategy is defined differently by different proponents, based on what one considers, is the key focus of his theory / paradigm / postulate. Examples include
• Blue ocean strategy that espouses a clean slate approach, out of the box thinking, unbounded by the past, bold, forward looking and claimed to be superior to other forms of strategy development
• Porters five forces model of competitiveness that believes sustainable businesses depend purely on competitiveness driven by the five forces of competitiveness
• SWOT approach where strategy development is driven by an analysis of the past: strengths, weaknesses (constraints) and the future opportunities and threats
• Systems approach where a holistic integrated approach is taken in charting a strategy

I believe - contrary to a pigeon holed approach that individual proponents espouse - that strategy is the thinking process in the mind of the strategist (business owner or the CEO). It is not something that is bragged about to the public, put on ppts and broadcast. Such an approach demolishes and neutralizes the fundamental premise of a strategy: to take on the competition / adversary by surprise, swiftness and low reaction time, orchestrate unique benefits for the self and entry / operational barriers for others, continuous evolution to always leave the competition / adversary behind (trailing). Strategy keeps evolving all the time in the mind of the driver. Loud statements on strategic expertise brandishing one tool or another are unrealistic, not recognizing the value derived, limitations, contextual appropriateness and holism to deliver practical value.

Real strategy is rarely spoken about loudly other than serving a diluted / text book version, to quench the thirst of analysts. Strategy is more often a game plan residing in the mind of the leader. He may disclose / share elements of it, just as much felt necessary to carry his team along, and give them a sense of belongingness in its conception and implementation, in order to hit the long term agenda.

Can we train one on strategy? Strategy is highly individualistic driven by thinking patterns and thought processes, learnings from experiences, successes, failures and how one has sailed through. Strategy is knowledge interspersed with emotions and confidence that one can. Strategy is nothing without being different.
Strategy is impossible without a belief that something that others have not tried or done, is possible. Objective of the strategist is to reveal as little of the strategy necessary to give meaning on one’s action to those he needs, to collaborate with, to achieve his vision. Stated vision is only a hazy picture of ones’ mental model of strategy that may never be articulated. Strategy has many elements in the nature of intrigue, bordering on illegality, unethical and even secretive, which if revealed would derail and endanger one’s goal achievement. It may not even be comprehensible to another. One can only comprehend only what is within ones’ realm of perception. Sometimes there may not even be a strategy, but only a passion that carried one forward. Business school case studies on strategy tend to be more of giving a legitimate meaning to an event in the language of the strategists to sync with known theories to gain credibility among one’s social and professional circles. Is it possible to give meaning to all that one does, over someones else’s template?

Pigeon Holed Strategy
mangesh pansare, Manager, India
I did read books by Porter, on SWOT, etc., and I was wondering how can the strategist divulge ones strategy, because once open to world, it is no more a strategy. Mr Subramanian you finely explained the same, thank you.

Pigeon Holed Strategy
subramanian, Business Consultant, India
Thank you Mangesh. You are absolutely right. I happened to have some professional interaction with a recently retired Lt. General in the Indian Army. The name of the game (strategy) whether it is in military or business is Surprise: give very little visibility into your game plan and reaction time to your rival.
If you don't there is no strategy. What is generally touted as strategy is nothing but a plan to follow the crowd. This is no strategy to me! Strategy is be Apple working on new product paradigms that rivals cannot even visualize... Narendra Modi's (Indian PM) strategy of playing one potential adversary against another (enemy's enemy) very diplomatically: presenting unique benefits to each without revealing how he would integrate these, which he alone knows!

Pigeon Holed Strategy
mahmoud, Other, Saudi Arabia
@Subramanian: I don't agree with the part you mentioned about strategy being a game, actually this is exactly the Indian dirty games management.
Strategy must be clear and understood to all employees.
I feel so sorry to read such thing.

Pigeon Holed Strategy
subramanian, Business Consultant, India
You seem to have interpreted the word game in a negative sense. The word game here only means a set of ideas that work in sync to achieve a goal. To qualify it as dirty is a preconceived judgment. Thank you for sharing your views.

Creating an Efficient Strategy in Silence
Leslie, Student (University), Mexico
It's an interesting and common topic that we see during all our life. When you move the correct pieces in the "battle camp" you can see the main points and the strong rivals. While doing so you can try to create an efficient strategy in silence, while your competitors don't have a clue. Like an invisible hand.

Always Share Strategy Inside your Firm
Neeran Gautam, Professor, India
I believe that strategies in a competitive environment should always be shared (this too is a strategy). Being innovative one moves higher on the ladder by working out newer strategies while non-innovative units in your firm are busy to either follow or imitate the shared strategies. Advantages and success still remain 'open'. Such shared strategies will serve as baits to other units and keep them involved, whereas the innovative unit is busy capturing the markets and reaching out faster to customers.
Sharing too has BENEFITS in a competitive market!

Sharing the Strategy?
subramanian, Business Consultant, India
Dear Prof. @Neeran Gautam, thank you for your views. I tend to agree with you in a limited sense for a limited purpose. As you will see in my writing, strategy will be shared for a limited purpose of carrying the team with the leader and also for developing a culture of strategic thinking.
But I still believe the kernel of any strategy is highly proprietary to the strategist, and is used as a trump card when appropriate (I am saying this from a practical perspective).

No Pigeon Hole Strategy but Entrepreneurial Strategy
K.Narayana Moorthy, HR Consultant, India
My thinking is that, rather than try to be perfect, you should do your best. Remember of course, that your best will vary, and when compared, your strategy, will not look very good, despite the fact, subjectively it is the best.
Therefore do not strive for the perfection, and do not live a pigeon hole. Instead do your best, rather than worrying that yours is not perfect.
This is because, in business there are many factors that compel strategies to alter/modify, as long as there is continuity in business. So compile time-knowledge and go for entrepreneurial strategies in emerging situations.

Evolving Strategy
subramanian, Business Consultant, India
@K.Narayana Moorthy: Yes, you are right. Strategy is an evolving thing depending on the situation that unfolds. I am reminded of a rolling plan, maybe more than a decade ago. Thank u Mr. Moorthy for your views.

Some Additional Information on (Business) Strategy
K.Narayana Moorthy, HR Consultant, India
Success in business through strategy comes from: teamwork; innovation; clear vision; good leadership; inspiration and motivation.
A business strategy takes care of: risk; ideas; plan; goal; money; business intelligence; corporate social culture.
Business Strategies may exist at different levels:
- CORPORATE business strategy: overall purpose and scope of business to meet the stakeholder"s expectations.
- BUSINESS UNIT Strategy: deals with how a business competes successfully in a particular market.
- OPERATIONAL level strategy: concerned with how each part (function, like HR, Marketing etc.) of the business is organised to deliver the corporate & unit level strategies. Focuses on resources, processes and people.


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