Strategy is Crap!?

Talking, or writing about business strategy creates some very polar reactions. Strategy has been raised to such vaunted heights in business school's that you'll often find graduates striving to get into consulting companies like Monitor, Bain, Booz, McKinsey or BCG as they charge higher fees and enjoy the highest status among graduates.

The elevation of business strategy in business schools has created a trickle-down effect of new snobbishness for those who study and practice it.

Type strategy into Amazon...

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Now, search for implementation...

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If you try this little experiment in Google, you'll find similar results. Strategy has much more cache, much more being written about it, and seems to pay better than good old implementation.

Henry Mintzberg forcefully articulates that explicit strategies are "blinders designed to focus direction and block out peripheral vision." And that "setting oneself on a predetermined course in unknown waters is the perfect way to sail straight into an iceberg."1 And of course, Michael Raynor, the author of the Strategy Paradox would no doubt agree that traditional strategy development approaches can pour cement into your business.

But with the goal of strategy being to focus efforts and allocate resources for their best return, then what is a company supposed to do?

John Sall, a cofounder of SAS Institute, asks "Why should it take two years to teach smart people [MBA's] the secret to success: listen to your customers, listen to your employees, do what they tell you?"2 I would suggest that is a strategy in itself; your resources and attention are focused on those things that are brought to the fore by your act of listening.

Andy Grove of Intel, has a more inclusive perspective:

"I don't think we should forget that there is more to running an enterprise, small or large, than strategy. The revolution in quality control, and the revolution in manufacturing techniques that has taken place in the last 15 years were all data driven...And the U.S. economy has benefited incredibly over the last 15 years without a change in strategy, just by seriously embracing the science of manufacturing and quality control. So, strategy is important. Figuring out what to do is important. Doing them and doing them well is equally important."3

Sounds to me like Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan, and Listen. Funny that.;)

1, 2, 3 J. Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, Hard Facts Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management (Boston, Harvard Business School Press, 2006)

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