I read Holly Green’s Shifting from Strategic Planning to Strategic Agility, on Forbes.com the other day. Ok, agile sounds good for a business. And the world does change rapidly, too. But what about this, from something I wrote about 10 years ago:
Better a mediocre strategy, consistently applied over time, than a series of brilliant strategies, changing rapidly, contradicting each other.
Is that no longer true? Here, in contrast, is Holly’s argument for strategic agility:
At its core, strategic planning involves a process of analysis. You do some research into what is and what is possible. You define a goal, break that goal down into manageable steps, and determine how to implement them while identifying the expected consequences of each step. It’s a logical, straightforward process designed to sequentially move the organization from where you are now to where you want to go.
The huge flaw in this is the assumption that the world is reasonably stable and somewhat predictable. Maybe a few generations ago. But anyone who has been paying attention the last few years knows that today’s world is neither.
That sounds reasonable as I read it, but in fact, I disagree. I don’t think strategic planning assumes that the world is stable and predictable. It does, however, assume that one core foundation of any strategy is your identity. It’s your uniqueness, what sets you apart from the rest of the world. That’s true for companies as much as for individuals. And that doesn’t change easily. You can change strengths and weaknesses only over a long time, and with a great deal of effort. So that part of strategy is relatively stable. And that’s a very important part.
Of course markets change, technologies change, and goals change; which is why the “agility” component is attractive. But strategic agility doesn’t replace strategy. I say good business strategy mixes long-term attributes with changing markets and focus, and of course it’s always a process, never fully stable. One element affects the other elements. It is never sequential. But strategy is also a matter of focus, understanding core identity, building positioning over time, and it takes consistency too.
What do you think?