Sunday, October 9, 2011

Which is the Best Strategic Model?

Strategy is one of those business phrases, a bit like Leadership, that can be on everyone’s lips as a key business topic – but when you ask what strategy actually is, you can end of with a lot of fancy words and waffle, that doesn’t define anything - except that the person hasn’t a real clue what the subject is about.
First and foremost strategy is nothing without implementation – and that means effective, efficient and successful implementation.
Many organisations have ‘collections’ of strategic documents, analysing this and recommending that, which never get implemented – these documents are often either generated internally after a few nights away at a luxury conference centre or generated for a hefty fee by less than scrupulous consultancies that use the organisations knowledge to develop a ‘future’ that the organisation hasn’t  a hope in hell of achieving – because they’ve analysed a future state without matching the implementation requirements against the current skills, productivity, cash flow, and other ‘real’ constraints….creating a fictitious masterpiece.
When business people talk about strategy, why do they many only talk about the plan and not about the results of the implementation? Strategic planning without implementation is a waste of time and resource.
There are various strategic models that are ‘punted’ as offering the best approach to the ‘strategic processes’, including; Michael Porter’s – Five competitive forces that shape strategy; Strategic mapping models; Six Sigma (and the several variants of the programme) and the concept of Strategic herding which many follow blindly….
All of these models offer a valuable insight to the strategic process but none of them give a blue print for successful implementation. It’s assumed that organisations will take care of this last little bit themselves. But this last little bit is dependent on the leadership accurately recognising their skills and expertise, and accurately identifying what skills they may have to ‘recruit’ to successfully reach their strategic goals.
It appears obvious – but in practice is a lot harder than you might think,  as it requires the leadership to admit that they have developed the right strategic plan for their organisation, but that they don’t currently have some of the core skills they will need to reach their goal. This can prove to be the biggest stumbling block an organisation can have. Because they’ve developed the strategy, they often find it hard to admit they aren’t geared to achieve it – seeing this as a failure. All it means is that sometimes if you can dream it you’re going to need some other skills to achieve it.
For strategy to be truly beneficial it must deal with;
1)      The systematic identification of emerging opportunities and threats;
2)      Preparedness to meet change;
3)      Risk assessment and analysis;
4)      The specification of sustainable competitive advantage;
5)      Improved communication among executives, management and staff;
6)      Prioritising of strategies;
7)      Reduction of conflicts between individuals and departments;
8)      The involvement of all levels of management in the planning process;
9)      More appropriate allocation of scarce resources;
10)   Consistency of approach across the organisation;
11)   Developing and following through on a detailed, flexible implementation plan.
The primary responsibility business leaders have is to develop organisations that will be more successful tomorrow than they are today, (Harper and Glew, 2008). To the frustration of executives and employees alike, many firms get caught in a performance rut that prevents them from reaching their true potential.
Implementation has too often been considered a strategic afterthought, possibly because some consider execution less ‘glamorous’ than formulating vision and strategic content. In fact the main cause for executive job turnover is the failure to execute strategy. There is a big difference between formulating strategy and executing it.
Many businesses need to shift from relying on superior strategy to developing superior strategic implementation capabilities. Ineffective implementation can cripple a business, as the needed strategy goes wanting. So while we often think of the strategic planning process as a core competency, I propose that implementation expertise and capability is an equally important entity for creating and maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage.
“Effective implementation of an average strategy beats mediocre implementation of a great strategy every time” (Sterling, 2003).

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