The Strategy Disconnect

DISCONNECT FIAT 500C DIESEL By 246-You on FlickrStrategy…its a word that conjurs up a lot of images…some good and some bad.

There are a lot of people writing and talking about strategy. There are tons of books. Lots of consultants and lots of material on the subject. There are many many millions of dollars spent each year on ‘strategy’.

There are courses you can take and even doctoral programs in strategy.  You can make an entire career out of doing nothing but creating and implementing strategy.

Not a bad career to have, right?  Strategy can be fun and exciting.  Strategy can drive new business and growth.  The right strategy can make an average company a global leader.

With all the focus that strategy has, you’d think that many organizations/people would get it right when creating new strategies….but there’s a huge disconnect that exists today (and I believe always has).

Millions can be spent on the ‘perfect’ strategy, but if that strategy isn’t understood and accepted by the people within the organization (and its customers), that strategy is worthless.   If that strategy isn’t grounded in reality, it is worthless.

That’s what i call the strategy disconnect.  A creation and implementation of a strategy that’s completely disconnected from the reality of the situation.  Whether that reality is your people, your technology, your finances or any other area – if you can’t build a strategy that considers your organizational and cultural capabilities, you’re wasted your efforts.

If you’re new strategy involves being agile, perhaps you need to make sure the people within your organization can be agile.  Forcing an agile strategy onto a slow-moving bureaucratic organization usually results in failure without properly considering how to change that bureaucratic mindset to an agile one.

If you’re new strategy requires formal processes to be implemented and followed to ensure proper execution, make sure you have an organization (and culture) that can embrace process.  Its pretty simple really….but this common sense approach isn’t common.

At the end of the day…the strategy disconnect is simple to pinpoint – its a disconnect between the reality that exists and the reality that must exist for a strategy to work.

You may think that I’m oversimplifying things…but I don’t think I am.  I know many organizations that have spent lots of money and time to create the ‘perfect’ strategy to take the organization ‘to the next level’ only to fail badly.  Most of these failures can be traced back to the failure to understand the organization, the culture and the people that will have to live that strategy in order to succeed.

I talk a bit about this disconnect in my post titled “Minding the gap between Strategy and Tactics” where I pose the following three questions:

  • Will the team understand this strategy?
  • Can the team implement this strategy?
  • Will the politics of the organization allow this strategy to work?

I’d like to add a fourth question to that list…it is:

  • Do I have the right people in place to make this strategy a reality?

While that question is contained in the first three to some degree, I think its important enough to merit being added as a question itself.

I’ve got a good case study to follow up on this strategy disconnect theme that I’ll be posting in the near future.  With my doctorate research in full swing, it may take a few extra days to write up, but I’ll get it up as soon as I can.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the strategy disconnect. Share them here in the comments or on twitter (@ericdbrown).

Image Credit: DISCONNECT FIAT 500C DIESEL By 246-You on Flickr