Strategic work in organisations needs to recognise the changing business landscape caused by the interaction between our environment, developing technologies, social changes and personal and demographic aspirations in both established (recovering) and developing economies. Therefore, strategy needs to be iterative – for some organisations almost on a daily basis. For individuals and small groups, strategy certainly needs to be adaptive to the play of the day.
Here are 4 examples from my consulting work, with a variety of businesses represented:
- A small business owner I was working with developed a strategy for the creation of a new restaurant chain. He had developed a franchise model for the growth of the chain and was eager to start a new store every 6 months. The chain also included a ‘supermarket’ style section that would provide a highly valuable restaurant-produced product line. After the first store’s creation and the acquisition of businesses that constituted part of the supply chain, he realised that he had to rethink the supply chain ownership that he was aiming for, as it was too difficult to execute at the moment. He sold the businesses that were part of the supply chain and concentrated on ensuring that his launch site was very profitable and systematised for future franchising. Debt and management crisis averted, the restaurant is very successful in its own right and future divestment and growth is still an option as the owner considers the clientele, regional demographics and most profitable lines of products and services.
- For a major non-profit organisation on which I sat on a major strategic review board, the overall strategy was to provide stand-out service in their sector, to develop for-profit ventures and to develop a suite of services that would cater to changing demographics, all with the aim of continuing to maintain and attract funding and provide their core services with growing funding over the next 5-10 year period. This strategy was partially successful, but I had advised that the latter service developments were not advisable, given difficulties in the particular service area they were proposing and their (then) lack of capability in the area. The organisation worked progressively on their goals, adapted timelines for the provision of for-profit services and dropped their other service expansions (as I thought prudent), given changing circumstances and funding. They continued to develop their programs and are doing very well some years later. That’s due in no small part to the iterative process that the CEO and the Board continue to undertake.
- A major business consulting services firm for which I was conducting some organisational development sought to become a ‘leading player’ with new technologies providing some of their core services. This was proposed by an overly ambitious marketing director. I counselled against the initiatives at the time at a general level, but was not privy to the particular decisions. The problem was that the strategy relied on the development of a whole new mindset on the part of clients and was attempting to become a global initiative on the part of a medium-sized player. Once efforts yielded little fruit, the strategy needed to change. Eventually, the strategic initiatives were dropped (as had been the marketing director), in favour of solid business development tactics with good returns on investment. Many $$ went down the tube, however, to learn the lesson not to put all your eggs into one basket.
- I was working with the CEO of a publicly listed company that had become very large through mergers and acquisitions. Unfortunately, there was no coherent strategy behind the acquisitions, other than to say that there was a general ‘synergy’ and cost saving that might be made through the consolidation of services, pooling of marketing resources, etc. (If you’re a past client reading this, no, it’s not the company you’re thinking of.) There was no objective for what the consolidated company wanted ‘to be’. The CEO left after frustration with the board’s intransigence about the business, which had an amorphous goal to become a big player through expansion and acquisition across Australia. The company succumbed to the poor strategy and lack of iteration in its goals and methods. It has fallen on hard times as a consequence.
We all know about the ongoing nature of ‘disruptive’ technologies and their impact on our daily lives. Unfortunately, most of the tech players touting these ‘disruptions’ have very little strategic acumen. This is evident on their ‘hope to be bought out by Google or Yahoo’ strategy. They’re just kind of creating and hoping. That’s not a strategy.
All companies – and individuals – need to ensure continuous adaptation and iteration when seeking to employ strategy that works for you, not against you.
How have your strategy or tactics had to adapt or change over the past 18 months? Leave a comment.
Copyright 2013 Peter J. McLean