If you are a strategy officer or a strategy consultant you will obviously deny that strategy could be dead, says Stefan Stern in Financial Times. But how can you have a strategy when there is no way of knowing what the future will bring? Is ‘Be Flexible’ or ‘Keep the ear to ground’ and ‘go with the flow’ the only sensible strategy?
Stern says that in times like these such an ‘adaptive’ strategy is needed. Hm, are these in any way special times? I certainly don’t think so. They are only special to those folks who don’t understand business cycles and thought that the market bubble would expand forever. Those are the managers that went on spending sprees when times were good and now have throttle back by whatever means to make the business survive. Certainly such managers don’t earn the that title.
Stern says, that those managers executing an ‘adaptive strategy’ have to have access to good business data and react to them quickly. That is at best a tactic, possibly no more than a plan that involves getting the data and analyzing it. Strategy has to be a lot more than ‘I will react to business data.’ Good managers certainly don’t need business data to define their strategy.
Lowell Bryan of McKinsey is now saying something that I was laughed at for saying ten years ago: ‘You have to give up the pretence that you can predict the future. Leaders have to intuitively navigate a complex adaptive economy rather than assuming away uncertainty in the annual budgeting process.’ Hey, those were exactly my words. But then I am not working for McKinsey. An adaptive strategy without rigid budgeting seems to be a tough choice for a 100.000 employee enterprise. So I believe that these dinosaurs won’t last because global enterprises are neither innovative nor are they good in using technology. The only capability they know how to use is market domination.
But then the priorities of consumers are changing. They are looking for more quality that lasts, for better service and long term relationships. All elements of business that a cost-cutting, process optimized, mostly outsourced global player has no way of providing. In the end I disagree with Stern when he says: ‘Something like recovery is on its way. You will need a strategy to make the most of it.’
I think we are still failing to recover because we are too focused on strategy and not enough on people and the reality of now.