Few years back, making ‘strategy’ for a business, or function was elite business. It was done by wise-looking, be-spectacled B-school grads, the ones who read emails with subject lines like ‘McKinsey’s Talent Retention Recommendations’ or ‘How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy’, while the rest of us read emails with subject lines like ‘Fwd: fwd: Pepsi new ad………really hilarious…..MUST VIEW’.
Of late, the lines have blurred and we all take shots at Making Strategy, quite unrestrained like the urge to make recommendations to Indian cricket team…or, something closer to day-to-day life, the urge for flatulence-triggered emmisions after a heavy lunch. The definition of strategy, if I were to attempt a contemporary one, would be:
Main Entry: strat·e·gy
a: careful plan or method : a clever stratagem b: the art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal.
a: thoughts, musings, opinions b: the art of slipping in the word ‘strategy’ in any presentation, without really meaning it.
a: delirious ramblings often induced by mild to severe concussion in the head.
The current breed of strategy makers that we encounter are nice, harmless folks doing well at the workplace, who have ambled into the space called ‘strategy-making’, more often, for no fault of theirs. Let’s look at some of them:-
The Patchwork Quilt Maker: Sews together pieces of work the function had been doing (taking a cut-off date of, say, 312 BC), to make a strategy for the new fiscal year.
The Populist: Agonizes over protecting the interests of all parties, factions, individuals, cartels and lobbies!
The Dream Merchant: Inspired by Bollywood, sets out to make a mega-bucks plan that is larger than life, star-studded and leaves the people gasping, awe-struck. Till they realize it had no connection with their lives!
The Abdicator: Does not make a plan, because he could not figure out how-the-hell to make one! So, leaves it to the people to do what they want to, under the banner of ‘democracy’. He’s the one with the sweet and sad smile of resignation in meetings, with the occasional ‘I-leave-it-to-you-since-you-are-smart’ look thrown in now and then.
The Bull-returning-from-the-China-Shop: Wears Nike…. in his heart, i.e., follows the mantra: Just Do it! On his way back, works on how to draw a connection between what was done and strategy.
The Mafia don: Gets people to do what they don’t want to, or what does not make sense, in the name of strategy. People huddle together in fear, cringe and yet, continue to deliver results, because Strategy Demands.
As organizations re-configure designs, re-invent roles, this becomes a critical potential to recognize and a vital role to define. A sound strategy is half the battle won – it makes sure people do what is right for the customer, in the most effective way, involving the right talent and measuring the right things.
Who should be making your strategy?
Some people can think, some can do : What is the kind of person you want as a strategist? Do you have one in your current team? Will you invest in him/her? Will you define his/her role differently? Will you reward him/her differently?
Cogito Ergo Sum.