Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

Strategy Management – the new normal (3)

And finally, the solution to the so-called new normal. What can organisations and individuals do to effectively address the new normal?

The new normal is loose

The Effectiveness lab’s bionically-balanced entity theory is an obvious answer to the new normal.  It’s a multi-faceted and inter-twined organisational development (OD.) configuration. While this particular blog discusses the Strategy organisational vital (OV), the solution to the new normal is as much good Leadership, Design (architecture), and People (the peer OV’s) as it is Strategy itself.

Last week’s blog shared insight from General Stanley McChrystal’s book Team of teams and explored in good detail the various drivers of strategy complexity. Complexity has its drivers – constant turbulence; predictions of the future may be possible, but the impact on the organisation when the future manifests cannot be predicted with certainty; efficiency and Taylor’s reductionist tendencies that have served the post-industrial-revolution entity so well are no longer the panacea to success; structure is becoming the new strategy confirming the intertwined nature of OV’s at the bionically balanced entity; and finally, solutions to generic problems can no longer hold for long – there are different solutions to the same problem on different days.

Again, if the US army that spends a whopping $598 billion on its operations every year can be defeated by a loose network of Al Qaeda in Iraq, organisations need to pay attention to complexity and its cause and effect. It’s no longer business as usual

The solution to this new normal in strategy management 

It’s tempting to view the ultimate solution to the new normal as regressive and insular. Why? Because organisations have chosen not to fight or try to stop the drivers of complexity. Organisations, and ironically successful ones at that, have accepted that they can’t do much to stop the complexity-drivers outlined above like turbulence, etc. Instead, they have accepted to live with them side by side. It’s like organisations have given up on fighting complexity.

Yet, the perceived negative approach is hiding a subtle but key OD. reality. The sustainable solution to the new normal, as alluded early on this blog, is the bionic approach to managing organisations. Managing organisations bionically is about accepting the status-quo and exploring means to survive crosswind factor situations.

The above is like an aeroplane taking off against the wind – it has no option but to take off and chop the winds. However, for the aeroplane to successfully take off against the wind, it needs certain critical variables to be in place. Moreover, no variable acting alone can sustain a successful take-off. It is a game of many actions, in sync, with varied OD. velocities.

  • Organisations won’t stop turbulence from wreaking havoc on businesses. Instead, organisations have to stay the course – resilience

Organisations have to put up with turbulence. To once again use the analogy of the plane, organisations have to fly with their seat-belts on full time. Turbulent, fast-moving and interconnected business environments are here to stay. What is needed to forestall the effects of the harshness is a change in the psyche of the organisation. Things have to change from business as usual to permanently strange and tough. The word that we want to use, and it’s borrowed from Stanley McChrystal’s Team of teams is resilience.

Successful resilience is about taking a knock and quickly springing back into shape. Strategists have to think about ways to institutionalise resilience at organisations. Sustainable resilience is achieved by an interplay of the right leadership that will bring a different and special mindset in the organisation; the right architecture that empowers small teams and individuals to quickly think of solutions to spring back into shape when disaster strikes; and the right people that like and are passionate about the brand

  • Organisations need structures and the kind of people that can quickly respond to fast moving impact-situations.

While old strategy was grounded in extensive analysis and the accompanying trending, the new normal is the very opposite of the former. Managers may know what is to befall their organisation this month, but may never know its actual impact on the organisation’s business value chain. Stanley McChrystal quotes the Arab revolution that started in Tunisia. Tunisia bureaucrats and politicians knew that its Youth were unemployed and restless, but little did they know that the act of one youth and vegetable seller Tarek El-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi setting himself on fire would trigger a chain reaction that changed politics forever in Algeria and the Arab world

If organisations can’t predict with certainty the impact of tomorrow’s happenings on the future of the business, the best safety net is an OD. mesh that can withstand sudden impact.

Organisations that will survive the status-quo will morph like an amoeba – they will have loose structures that are seamlessly interchanged to fit unique situations that unpredictable environments bring on to businesses.

The governments in Egypt, Tunisia, etc. did not have the structures and people to deal with the youth-power-surge and the rest is history

  • It goes without saying that resilient and Amoeba-like bionically balanced entities require a different OD. configuration.

For many years, structure has been known to follow strategy. But the world is witnessing a flipped reality and strategy is starting to follow structure instead. Stanley McChrystal’s example of the US Army copying (and we suspect without copyright) the Al Qaeda loose structure is a poignant example of this reality. The American’s had to consider structure (design/architecture) as the one most important factor that had to be manipulated to win the war.

In itself, structure has become the strategy. With strategy becoming a short-term and unpredictable phenomenon increasingly, what creates sustainable value in business is the ability to seamlessly tweak strategy to fit a particular unique scenario. A loose structure is considered an enabler of agility and resilience at the business

Theorists like Alfred Chandler must be turning in their graves

  • Miniature images and maps of business value-chains and resulting strategy.

Managers are used to managing businesses holistically. They map value chains from A-Z, and craft value creation interventions accordingly. Sadly, there are too many interplays, happening at a fast rate, and influencing the cause and effect maps in extremely uncertain ways, that looking at a business holistically is pretty dangerous. In fact, It’s a zero-sum game.

Instead, successful businesses have broken value chains and accompanying value creation interventions into miniature images and maps. Yes, businesses are still looked at as one big piece of processes, but broken down into much smaller parts that can be altered hour by hour, day by day, even as they continue to feed into the whole.

In conclusion, the new strategy normal is acknowledging the reality that complexity and its cause and effect have negated strategy, so much so that on its own, it can’t deliver value to the organisation. Therefore, organisation’s are advised not to look to strategy or indeed the other OV’s as stand-alone factors. Strategy can only prop itself when juxtaposed and intertwined with its peer OV’s (Leadership, Design (architecture), and People).

The OD. power-play and dynamics have shifted more towards intertwined and horizontal than vertical drivers. Siloed approaches to OD. have no place in the 21st Century bionically balanced organisation. The new normal is loose, fast moving, and requires multiple factors to control.


2 responses to “Strategy Management – the new normal (3)”

  1. […] the loose nature of strategy means that sustainable structure is that which aligns to the new normal of strategy – i.e. loose in nature. Increasingly, organisations are no longer talking about […]


  2. […] organisational development (OD.) power-play and dynamics have shifted in favour of intertwined and horizontal than vertical drivers. […]


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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