Strategy lasts. Derived from the title of ancient Greek government officials charged with rallying resources to fuel military campaigns, refined in China, then ported back to the West by Napoleon, the science or art of coming together to agree on a goal, and the method to achieve it, is an activity that like farming or governing or writing poetry distinguishes human from animal.
I can do it in my sleep. Four years at Wharton, two at Columbia Business School, and a few more in investment banking have drilled into me the most broadly used tool that guides corporate decision-making: the financial projection.
Last Wednesday, in a suburban New Jersey warehouse converted into conference space and a cooking show set, I joined 80 managers assembled to discuss their company’s strategy. We had helped design the two-day experience and were at the point in the flow of the off-site when we hoped we would hear some new, breakthrough insights.
I have been repeating myself for a decade. In each of the 1,000 or so workshops and keynotes I have delivered over the past ten years, I have repeated some version of the refrain, “Do what customers love and competitors won’t copy.”
“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”
Confucius, when asked about leadership, likened people to grass and the ruler to wind: whichever way the wind blows so will bend the grass.
When Strategies Shift
In 2008, at the start of the economic crisis, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner was stepping off an airplane in New York City. As he approached the car that would take him into the city, the porter carrying his luggage commented that the stock market’s decline had continued that morning.
Putting Strategic back into Strategic Planning
In the last article of this series, we started covering the shortcomings of the strategic planning process (SPP). We said that a fast-changing environment, often referred to as strategic acceleration or heightened rate of competition, is detrimental to the strategic aspects of the typical SPP.