Linear strategies are out!

Foremost, the term « strategy » is overused.

If it doesn’t feel like a long term war being fought on multiple fronts and that you have to adjust or tweek details to make sure everything is working out, it’s not a strategy. It can be a pretty good projects which is strategically important… but not a strategy in itself. I say this because this tendancy to call every project a strategy brings its load of problems.

Someone recently asked me to explain the strategy I use at work. I had to pull a piece of paper out and draw my strategic map, I had to explain a bit the « Kaplan and Norton » model and say that I expand the « client perspective » to include all stakeholders. That being said the person told me that simple is better… I agree when it comes to « objectives », but not necessarily strategies. We live in a complex environment with many variables and this environment is filled with complicated people. Sustainability, or the « science » behind it comes from the understanding of that system and the ability to influence it for the greater good.

The persone then said, I want to know how to get from point A to point B. Also a valid question… If I’m physically going from somewhere to somewhere else. Humans don’t naturally « think » in a linear pattern. I believe our minds work more like « cloud computing ». That is why our subconscious is so important and why, when we take a break, we often find our solutions.

So we have this matrix comprised of complex and complicated things. Our understanding and our scheme of thoughts differ from one another and this reality is everchanging. Did I tell you that a Fortune study showed that only 10 % of strategies deliver the intended results? They probably show a simple way to get from point A to point B and don’t necessarily take into account its stakeholders.

Let me come back to my comment on the danger of everyone thinking that their projects are strategies. If those projects are thought as strategies, they take this place in the managers mind who, in turn, may not develop « real » strategies to win the war.

I’ll finish by saying that strategies are rarely, if ever, linear although their objectives might be and that they evolve in time. By evolution I mean that a 5 year strategy might be different from when first formulated if you have the correct KPIs and you made adjusments to adapt to your environment along the way.


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