The Future of Strategy

Organisations need strategy now more than ever, and a new breed of strategy is emerging, one that eschews the Jazz Hands Bullshit for executable vision.

As the former boxing champ Mike Tyson said,

“EVERYONE HAS A PLAN UNTIL THEY GET PUNCHED IN THE MOUTH”

Similarly, most organisations have a ‘strategy’ until they get disrupted. Organisations today need strategy more than ever. Not the over-analysed strategy of the 20th century, nor the current fluffy strategy of the guru and serial-conference jazz hand strategists who claim vision without the experience of delivery. Organisations today need strategy that can be implemented.

Strategy, a multi-faceted word and business discipline, has lost its way in the last couple of decades. Overused, fluffy and sometimes toxic, strategy needs to be reclaimed for a new generation of strategists and clients. For most people, strategy is a mysterious thing vaguely linked to a world of competing theoretical schools from a distant time, done by very large global management consultancies to other very large global organisations. Through its complexity, this kind of strategy has lost its ability to help organisations prepare for the future. But most disappointing of all, it has lost its ability to inspire change. Strategy as a tool of change is sliding into irrelevance.

The ‘art of the general’, originally used to describe war plans, now conjures images of a di erent type of army — an army of grey suited and booted consultants swarming over organisations analysing everything that moves, and then delivering a ton of analysis used to plan an organisation’s next move to the nth degree. This was 20th century strategy — known as Strategic Planning and made famous by Michael Porter, Boston Consulting Group et al. It was very successful, and took over the business world in its heyday. But the business world has changed and the usefulness of the planning approach to strategy has waned.

The digital revolution has changed the rules of the game, and industry after industry is being disrupted by technological innovation. This innovation has driven power from the brands into the hands of customers, making great customer experience (CX) the ultimate competitive advantage. Customers are now in charge, and are using the power of the internet to make or break a product or service with a few clicks. A hashtag can do more damage to a brand in an afternoon than the value a TV campaign can create in a year.

Today’s supersonic rate of change, and the disappearance of traditional barriers to entry, has made the market place an uncertain and paranoid place to do business in, no matter what your size. In fact, the bigger you are the slower you are, and the easier it is for the piranhas of disruption to slowly nibble away at your markets and drive your customers, segment by segment, away from you.

In the past, 20th century strategy (traditionally delivered by management consultancies), was all about efficiency and effectiveness, and using competitor advantage built up through economies of scale to create unassailable market positions.

But a new type of strategy is emerging that is about arming organisations with the capabilities to react to fast paced changes through agile innovation-led product and service development with customer experience at its core. This new strategic approach is focused on driving an organisation towards an innovative customer experience competitive advantage through the internal transformation of its technology, operations and culture.

We are seeing the emergence of a new breed of strategy. A strategy not just based on analysis, but on an executable combination of analysis and synthesis — a combination of data and creativity, of numbers and vision. It is the birth of a new modern approach to strategy that sees strategy formation as an innovation process. This new approach creates strategy that delivers a vision executed through innovation, in order to drive the organisation towards a disruption-proof future.

Strategy is now about execution. Without execution, strategy is just goals. All mouth and no trousers.