Organizations today are preparing the strategy automatically as if it is a must as the strategic planning has become one of the routine tasks. We note the establishment of specialized units of work for planning, and others to follow-up implementation of the organization strategy after being dropped on the employees in their departments based on their competence. Organizational maturity proceeds in our organizations side by side with setting firm foundations, rules and practices for the strategic management within organizations. We note developing business policies, procedures and models for strategic planning, and adopting guides and instructions detailing how to perform the strategic management tasks.
In the midst of this boom, the instructions are drifting to spontaneous practices which burden them, and make the employees feel the strategy as a burden more than being a way to draw the path of success, and a boat leading the organization to its destination. Recent studies and research addressed a number of these practices and shown their frustrating effect in several places. Perhaps our article allows addressing this subject with some scrutiny.
The strategy is directly influenced by the selection of the work team. In today’s organizations, the conviction solidifies that preparation and implementation of the strategy is not a particular task for strategy management, but rather involving a broader group of employees in order to form a work team having the ability to influence. Peter Bregman pointed out in an article published in the Harvard Business Review earlier to that when he stressed the need to choose the most influential people and work with them. Therefore, these people should be cooperative and characterized by the positive spirit. More importantly, they have the necessary authority to spread the strategy and market it to the rest of the employees depending on their persuasive ability.
Fortunately, today’s organizations have many tools to identify influential employees. It should be clarified here that the influential employees are not necessarily senior officials, but those are whose performance is essential in the work environment. One of the best practices to identify this category is to draw power map within the organization. The power map shows the affect and impact relationship among the employees and through which the most influential employees can be identified in the outcome. Therefore, they can be relied on within the strategy team. It is worth mentioning that the power map of strategy is different from the other power maps. The purpose of the map affects identifying and assessing relations, and thus their final form.
Beside that, organizations lose their ability to keep their strategy alive if the involvement of employees in their development is a complicated matter. This leads the employees to loss their engagement with the strategic plan. It is also possible to avoid falling into this strategic dilemma (if correct) by adopting what is called the two-way management, or a top-down or bottom-up one, so that the employees are involved in proposing amendments and marketing the appropriate ones upwards to reach the organization strategy, as well as, to re-drop the updated strategy on business units. This encourages the employees to participate and strengthens their sense of responsibility towards the strategy. It also increases their motivation and drives them to achieve the highest level of organizational innovation. Knowing that application of this method does not require significant and specialized expertise in senior management. David Collis broached the challenge by presenting what he calls a “Lean Strategy” to enable organizations to gain the flexibility of business leaders as well as the stability of large companies.
One of the most prominent examples of the companies that paid the price for the weakness of their strategic flexibility, and their inability to keep up with the rapid changes is Blackberry and Nokia. Each company lost a significant value of their market share as a result of the failure of their strategy in dealing with the revolution of smart phones, and the lack of sufficient agility to match these changes and deal with them properly.
The organization that wishes to practice strategic management successfully must have two basic capacities: the ability to plan and the ability to learn. The organization is unable to keep up with the rapid changes in the surrounding environment, which has become a feature of our time, if it adopts excessive formalism in the strategic planning. Such formalism is to develop and review the strategic plan at intervals of time according to strict procedures. This will weaken the organization’s ability to deal with uncertainties in the business environment. Also, the reliance on addressing developments of things, waiting for changes and learning from them is useless, and does not help the organization in reaching a leading position. In a research published on this case, Riccardo Vecchiato called it “Boundary Uncertainty“, as he advised that this situation should be handled through two axes. The first axis is to deepen our understanding of the importance of strategic outlook and the second one to rely on strategic flexibility in dealing with turbulent business environments. In this case, it is essential for decision-makers to gain a proper understanding of the main components of the competence area of their organizations and to rely on planning and outlook techniques to understand the drivers of change and their impact on their business.
Also, providing the organizations with strategic solidity will combine planning and learning. This new approach goes beyond the traditional behavior which has been supported by many previous researches in the various business sectors, which is based on adherence to strategic planning to face the cases of instability and rapid changes.
Perhaps what Philips did is a good example of this trend, as it paid attention to changing consumer tendencies and preferences, their orientation towards larger-screen TVs, and gaming platforms that require a high-capacity television, as well as watching movies on demand.. After a series of surveys and research, Philips has successfully developed a strategy based on learning outcomes. This strategy has produced many revolutionary technologies in this field, such as the developing devices capable of connecting with each other to create a smart home environment, as well as providing peripheral lighting technology which gives a feeling that the screen is larger than its normal size.
Balance is considered the key word to success of the organizations during the strategic planning process. We see some organizations go far to adopt strategic planning methods that are in conflict with mostly applicable ones, such as the organic strategic planning, which is more adaptable and comprehensive than regular strategic planning models, in which the focus is on activities and actions that have proved their effectiveness and not the challenges. The managers decide the developmental work that is in line with the vision and mission of the organization and not the targets set. Of course we do not encourage going all this distance, but at the minimum to find the desired balance.
Finally, organizations should be vigilant when it comes to strategy of relying on influential persons, forming an internal work team, and involving the employees of different categories in identifying challenges and opportunities that they can benefit from thanks to their experience and awareness, and be careful to keep the strategy flexible enough to accommodate timely updates.
* I wrote and published this article in Harvard Business Review Arabic.