What is happening to strategy?
Is it really outdated or are we rushing into the wrong direction?
Strategy and consulting as a practice peaked just a few years ago, but right now it seems that the industry has reached revival with a lasting impact. Today’s business environment is more connected, more complex and changing at a faster pace than ever before. Predictable, stable markets are a relict of the past.
Business books and industry media continue to peg strategy consulting as an industry that is ripe for disruption. With the rise of the startup culture, alternative concepts like lean management and agile management are becoming more widespread. The significant reduction of entry barriers for experimentation (technology prices and availability of technology) further increase the tendency to experiment rather than plan.
These factors impact decision makers on the client side. Managers are under a lot of pressure to produce short-term results. Experimentation and agile pilots without much research and strategy appear to be the silver bullet to meet goals and unlock growth opportunities.
While there is clearly room to improve the way how companies develop and execute strategies, it seems that the business community is blindly switching from one extreme (5 years strategic plan) to another (no strategy). What appears to be ignored is just how many resources are burned by operating in a continuous stage of experimentation. How much potential is lost by rushing into projects without defining goals, insights, and clear opportunities.
It feels like the default belief is that experimentation will solve every problem while missing the fundamental notion that experiments need a clear hypothesis to be tested and explored:
- Is there a real customer need?
- Do we have a product/market fit?
- Do we create real value for our clients?
I believe that strategy is still essential to driving future success, especially in competitive business environements.
Because starting initiatives without having a clear understanding of the current context, a clear vision for delivering value (and making money) for tomorrow and how to roughly get there, seems like an even bigger waste of resources.
At the same time, I also believe that strategy and the process to develop strategies needs to become more nimble, more inclusive and more adaptive to current developments within and outside of organizations.