A few months ago I went to a strategy seminar at a well-known university business school. Having studied strategy at university, I had expected to glean some new insight or become aware of the latest thinking and gurus. But what I found is that the gurus, models and thinking being taught today are largely untouched from my days at university nearly 20 years ago.
It reminded me that I had a similar experience when studying for an Institute of Directors qualification a couple of years ago.
So how can it be that in a world that has been transformed by the internet, mobile communications, online commerce, and, more recently, social media, we are still teaching the work of Porter, Ansoff, BCG, et al?
The answer can only be that all this work remains valid and viable for business leaders today. The very fact that nothing new has eclipsed this traditional business thinking means this must be the case.
My findings and reflections from a recent strategy summit endorsed this view. What I took away was not that the world of strategy is dramatically changing or reinventing itself, simply that there are some new dynamics to consider when applying the traditional models and thinking.
The changes have been in pace and engagement
Speed of action is increasingly important for businesses, especially those markets that have experienced disruption by technology. What might have been a solid strategy a few years ago could still be valid, but must be brought about quicker or by using a different end approach in order to achieve its objectives. So businesses can still target growth in a particular market for example, but greater care needs to be taken to review its effectiveness at more regular intervals, and crucially build in the flexibility to change course if required.
Culture and communication were two themes that frequently cropped up too. People want to feel engaged and informed in an environment that is aligned with their personal values. The recovering jobs market means businesses are under pressure to conform to these demands in order to attract and more importantly retain the best talent – think about Google’s culture, which is held up as an example in the creative industry, or Sports Direct for rewarding staff with shares. It’s tough to implement your strategy without the talent to do so.
Here are 3 of the best soundbites from the strategy summit for you to take away and contemplate:
“Strategy will be adaptive and near-real-time – forget 5 year plans. The winners will be the fastest and most agile.”
“Strategy will have to adapt to thrive in a fluid, interconnected, global ecosystem. The ability to interpret and react instantly to outside information will be the differentiator.”
Last but not least, my favourite: