The three cardinal sins of strategy – the end

The end is only the beginning

Jane was was exhausted. The last three months had flown by at warp speed. Ever since that fateful board meeting, where they had launched the new strategy approach, she had not had much sleep – let alone any spare time. Not only was their normal schedule pretty tight, but now they were behind the game with this recent process change – and all that was before they were a man short.

John had handed in his resignation. It all seemed pretty innocent. John was happy most days and he still met up regularly with their CEO, Jack. But in confidence he admitted that this whole change of strategy approach had shook him a bit. He had been doing strategy for more than 20 years, religiously following the classic 7 steps and he felt he needed a time out. Maybe it was time for board roles or his passion of helping sustainable scale ups succeed.

Despite the loss of her long time mentor, Jane was excited about the new approach and her new role as head of both strategy and transformation. She had now worked intensely with the partner from the consultancy that introduced this broader way of viewing strategy, and they had already reaped several benefits. The different approach had both killed a few key initiatives and proposed a number of bolder moves of which they had agreed to experiment with two this year. If things went well, they were looking at high double digit bottom-line growth the next three years.

Experiment. That was new too. It was part of last step before more direct implementation work took over. The external consultancy called it: “Prepare to be wrong”. What kind of consultancy would sell you the idea that they had the right solution and then ask you to prepare to be wrong?!? But the logic was solid enough. The whole thing was based on two key insights: Firstly, strategy is about maximizing the odds of winning, but it is no guarantee and thus it makes sense not to bet the whole house. Secondly, once we do have a successful strategy, we are very reluctant to let it go, even when the world around us changes. It also means that the safest way to predict the strategy of a competitor is to look at what they did last year. To avoid making the same mistake, Jane had implemented an early warning system, where key assumptions in the strategy were kept track off automatically.

They had really gone all in on the implementation work. They had worked simultaneously on changing the organization AND transitioning the individuals as well as dug deep in the behavioural change toolbox, but truth be told she was not sure what to expect. Implementation had never been big on her agenda. She appreciated the point about strategy without implementation had no value, but she had just never seen it as her job – nor expected there to be anything but push back. It was only natural right? Well, some of the reactions from the organization were different. Very different. In some of the workshops they held with the organization they had been asked why they had not done this sooner!

She was tired now though. But things were also looking brighter. They were through the first round of the transformation, and right now it seemed they may not need a second round. And with the broader tee up in the beginning of the strategy process, she had noticed that discussions in management and the board were becoming easier, as many decisions were already given or at least heavily supported by clear directional pillars. She opened the door to the outside. It felt like spring was on the way.

If you also want your strategy to be faster and more solid, contact or +45-23103206.

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