Strategy has been seen throughout history as a method to achieve a decisive result. But strategy today is fast becoming antithetical to the notion of a permanent result.
The anachronistic illusion of strategy producing an “Enduring Victory” is slipping away into the dark of night. Strategy today is an EXPLORATION, not an ending.
The immutability of product life cycles and organizational life stages assures that there’s no “ending” on a secure and permanent “victory perch” above the marketplace’s white-hot competitive floor.
As each cycle and stage turns inexorably, new strategic challenges inevitably pop up and must be addressed quickly in order to keep the enterprise moving forward.
If a product or service zooms into the success stratosphere, there is no guarantee it will stay there in our “Change Age.” In fact, companies in that enviable position will likely have to work harder to sustain their position and grow.
Given this “no ending” point-of-view, strategy cannot be viewed through a transactional lens with prescribed and predetermined steps.
German Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke put it like this in the 19th Century: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”
For a modern take on the point, here’s how boxer Mike Tyson puts it (honest): “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
Gotta love Iron Mike.
The lesson for leaders today? Ending points do not exist!
Today’s “new” strategy is an exploratory NARRATIVE that is more like an evolving COMIC STRIP than a DRAMA that starts, builds and then concludes.
I liken it to building one of the custom treehouses featured on the cable show “Treehouse Masters.” The structure is “attached” to the trees with a system of movable steel supports that allow the building to flex and sway in the wind while allowing room for the trees to grow at the same time. (By the way, my next office will be a treehouse!)
Directionless strategies will eventually fail unless the frame is built to flex and change directions.
Today’s “new” strategy is more like a vehicle to deal with the ever-changing environment–over time–than a microphone used by a zealous leader to claim dominance in the moment. This change-oriented approach values incremental movement in a sea of uncertainty. Learning and enlightenment gained from the organization’s journey provide the strategic intelligence so critical in making success-or-failure course corrections.
THE ZERO-SUM GAME IS OVER
The no-ending point of view contrasts sharply with the notion of strategy as a zero-sum game of reaching a specific goal or decisive victory. It means strategy may now be more about learning something new that prompts an interruptive intervention. Intervention of that kind would likely produce transformation that would never have happened on a transactional, linear path.
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