Is Strategy Restrictive?
Is Strategy Restrictive?
In our work, we are constantly reading articles and books from other strategy consultants to keep informed with the latest strategy management thinking. A recent article from a Strategy+Business blog caught our attention, written by Ken Favaro a principle at Act2, an advisory firm to leaders and Boards. Favaro answers a reader’s question about how the leader of his company has rejected the idea of developing and managing a “strategy” because he felt it is too restrictive.
Strategy, in the simplest terms, is about making choices and communicating those choices clearly to the organization, defining the activities required to achieve success and delegating those activities to individual and teams. This matches Favaro definition of strategy, saying that strategy means being decisive and deliberate about the company’s choices and having a strategy is “a prerequisite to sustained execution excellence, where everyone in the organization knows what they are supposed to do and why they are supposed to do it.”
However, once the organization’s leaders have made those deliberate choices, does that mean strategy is restrictive? Not at all—but unfortunately, some leader’s do feel this way. We often hear comments like, “My business is different and always changing, so strategy management will not work here.” Like Favaro, we feel those leaders are missing the point. Strategy can be both static and dynamic, decisive and flexible.
Favaro offers an interesting perspective in support of having a strategy (he gives credit to Mark Gillett at Silver Lake). There are two types of strategic choices, Stated and Working.
Stated Choices – These strategic choices define the strategy and are fully communicated to all employees. They provide a clear sense of direction with objectives, initiatives and expected results. Without this clear set of stated choices, people perform a lot of activities, but without a coherent and constructive purpose.
Working Choices – These choices are debated by the leadership team in private. They have the responsibility of assessing issues and opportunities that might change the stated choices. This provides the organization a degree of flexibility to change course based on new learning and market realities. Once a working choice is made, it can be communicated throughout the organization.
For leaders that feel strategy can be restrictive to their business, the stated and working strategic choices model can be a viable solution. It provides those on the front lines the clarity they need to stay focused on priorities and understand what needs to be done and why, which leads to execution excellence. It also addresses the dynamic nature of business. As markets, customers and competitors change, leaders have the flexibility to make changes in real time.
Have you avoided developing a strategy because you felt it was too restrictive for your business? If this perspective is as interesting to you as it is to us, we would like to hear from you.