I believe that this is good advice as it helps to distinguish
the long-term strategic plan from the shorter-term business forecast. Both are
necessary, both are important and both should relate to one another, but the
two should not be confused.
2. Strategic thinking is everyone’s job.
The evidence suggests that to be successful, a strategic plan needs the support,
understanding and involvement of people at all levels in an organisation.
Simply involving people is not enough though. Those people need to be capable
of both thinking strategically and seeing the organisation in the context of
the global market and economy.
These are skills that tend to come more easily to people
who have worked in a number of industries, as they have had a broader exposure
to different organisations and approaches. But this is not to say that remaining
within a single organisation is necessarily bad. Indeed, as Jim Collins observed
in his book ‘Good to
Great’, only one of the eleven companies considered ‘Great’ in
their survey had hired an external CEO during the 10 years prior to achieving ‘greatness’,
all the rest were internal appointees, most of whom had been with their organisations
for many years.
It is obvious therefore that strategic awareness can
be learned on the job and even taught. Indeed, one of my own company’s
areas of expertise is in developing such skills within organisations.
The challenge is for organisations to accept that employees, generally recruited
for the depth of their knowledge in a particular subject, need to also have a
good breadth of knowledge if they are to become effective strategic thinkers.
If strategic plans are visionary, large scale and long-term,
it stands to reason that they will take time to implement. Yet in today’s
short-termist markets, woe betide any CEO who does not produce the predicted
results almost instantly. As Jack Welsh said of his time as CEO of GE - ‘Everybody
gives me credit for what I did. But look at how much time I had! It took me at
least ten years to begin to get results. What would happen today to a guy who
took all those years to get results?’
To address the question from the start of this article, it would appear that
strategy and action are inseparable and any debate as to which comes first is
as futile as the question concerning the chicken and the egg.