Managers (either owners, executives or consultants) must understand the real meaning and impacts of Strategy. There are several theories about what constitutes Strategy, what the key elements are and how to use these elements. To me, in a very simplistic way, Strategy is a tool to plan the future, today.
Well, except for wizards (and I am sure there are many in the business environment), foreseen the future is challenging. Developing a Strategy plan is crucial for the success of an organization, as it allows it to be prepared to face issues and continue delivering value to its stakeholders into perpetuity. The more prepared a company is, the more efficiently it will be in addressing crises and being able to overcome endogenous and exogenous events that might harm its business.
Executives need to take into consideration several external and internal aspects when planning their company’s strategy and the alignment with all company’s levels and dissemination within all employees is key to success. That one of the reasons why it is a demanding task.
By exercising the business planning and strategy creation, one is required to assess several options, testing them and studying their feasibility in light of the internal and external available resources. Then, after rounds of drafting and brainstorming, the chosen path has to be validated with other areas of the business.
In theory, an organization is comprised of a group of individuals working with one objective, aiming at a greater good. In theory. The real life is indeed something different. Different people have different goals, personal aspirations, and are in different moments of their lives.
According to Johnson, G., Whittington, R., Scholes, K., Angwin, D. & Regnér (2014), “Organizations involve complex relationships, both internally and externally” “ (p. 6), and this is the main issue a manager is required to surpass to develop meaningful strategic plans. A plan that considers all goals and aspirations of the stakeholders and the relationships among them. Failing to do so means delivering a plan that will not be fully executed.
Moreover, besides individuals, the different levels of the organization ought to have specific approaches, as they have their own particularities. Whilst corporate-level strategy involves the entire group, and sets for the future of the business, business-level strategy relates to niches (or business-units), and how they can compete in their environment.
Additionally, to support and accomplish corporate and business level strategies, a robust and comprehensive operational strategy is essential to be developed as well. As the three strategy levels are deeply connected, and have a direct impact on each other, it is needless to say that those must be aligned, from the developing of the plan to the execution of it. The resources (both human and financial capital) allocated to each one are to be discussed and aligned with decision makers, otherwise will be useless.
One parallel can be drawn with a rowing team. All team members want to win, but if they are not coordinated and no one sets the pace, the rowers will be out of sync. They will fail. The leader’s duty is to be in constant communication with the team to get instant feedback and, if necessary, change the course of action.
As the development of a Strategy have to take into consideration multiple factors, a different method of looking at the situation from different standpoints (lens) is one fair approach to the issue.
According to Johnson, G., Whittington, R., Scholes, K., Angwin, D. & Regnér (2014) “The strategy lenses are ways of looking at strategy issues differently in order to generate additional insights” (p. 20) and this is unique. This means having access to new angles to address strategic problems, and that are likely to raise new questions, and otherwise unthinkable solutions.
The strategy as Design is theoretical and closer to the design school, based on data and expected, simulated results, with different scenarios and outputs. This is a starting point with which one can discard unfeasible rationales (and those outdated due to the market dynamics). On the other hand, strategy as Experience allows for the observation of past practises and the understanding of what works or not (and there might be myths here that should be demystified).
Other lens include strategy as Variety, which allows for new (sometimes-brilliant) thinking, and here is usually where disruptive concepts and ideas come from and strategy as Discourse, where the development of the strategy is based on the ways managers address strategic problems and communicate it. Usually, managers use a combination of the four lenses to come up with a robust and comprehensive plan.
By applying the lens methodology, a manager could be more prepared to address different points of views and, there, having more chances of integrating the organization levels as is less likely to miss important aspects of one or the other. There is not right or wrong methodology as it would change greatly depending on the type organization, mission, culture and resources.
Bea La O’. (2014) How Managers Approach Strategic Decisions: Think, See or Do? Northwestern University.
Johnson, G., Whittington, R., Scholes, K., Angwin, D. & Regnér, P. (2014) Exploring strategy text & cases. 10th Ed. Harlow: Pearson..
by Estevão Seccatto Rocha