Avoid Pigeon Holed Approaches to Strategy
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?