Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

Strategy as miniature images and maps of a business

Picture yourself at this grande so called corporate strategy workshop, working in the opulence of a five-star hotel with all the honchos at your organization in attendance. At this sacred event, you will be surrounded by classic consultants elaborating every matter strategy, through various reflections and case studies. We know that you can’t help it, but think or pretend to think big. As a matter of fact, the corporate chiefs will ask you to think big or leave.

Apparently, the ‘visa’ that gets one to such a sacred function, the strategy planning or design workshop, is ‘big-thinking.’ The unit gaffers back at the corporate office would have spent hours identifying exceptional staff that they believe think both big and strategically.

Well, the question has to be: what is ‘big and strategic’ thinking? You will get a litany of answers – seeing the broad picture; understanding the A-Z of the business value chain; mastery of the market; whizz-kid; broad as opposed to the narrow-minded articulation of business matters; business savvy; and we must add, being loudmouthed. We are sorry for those silent intellectuals that do not have a lot to say. The latter characters, even if smart, won’t make the grande strategy event.

Clearly, getting the ‘visa’ to the so called strategy meeting is the affirmation that one is a certified member of the corporate creme-de la-creme club.

However, like many aspects of the contemporary business world, it is becoming evident that so-called ‘big-thinking’ is no longer the panacea to successful strategy making. Indeed, big-thinking is increasingly becoming a fallacy. There is a good reason why big money spent on big strategy meetings, ends up in the bin. Corporate strategies, written by top-notch consultants, are left to fossilize on office shelves, more and more, on computer hard-disks. They are useless documents created by botched processes and big-money making experts.

Is the time right for businesses to adapt ‘flipped-thinking’ and abandon certain orthodox management practices? Yes!

We, therefore, submit on this blog that ‘small’ and ‘discontinuous’ thinking may get companies much more effective strategy outcomes than holistic thinking. You no longer need a fat-book, full of forecasted scenarios and responses, to deliver an effective strategy.

Businesses need leaders and staff with:

  • the mindset and competence to perceive the A-Z of the individual business value chain, but at the same time understand the chain’s brokenness
  • the knack to not only seamlessly break the business value-chain into minute sub-elements but also develop tailored miniature business solutions
  • and finally, the boldness to recognize that the fluid nature of the business environment has relegated fat-book strategy approaches to the bin

The reality – miniature images and maps of business value-chains deliver effective strategy:

We aren’t advocating for the elimination of strategy design; strategy is still required by the firm.  We are promoting a different approach to developing and implementing strategy.

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

To succeed at business, companies have disintegrated value chains and accompanying value creation interventions into miniature images and maps. Yes, companies are still looked at as one big piece of value-creation 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.

Instead of organizations herding their employees to grande strategy events in the opulence of five-star hotels, owners and their boards should provide broad guidance on ‘what’ and ‘where’ they want the business to be at, within a given time frame. The mechanics of how to deliver the owner’s ask is better left to units within the overall corporate structure.

Strategy delivery, conformist or revolutionary, has to be monitored to be effective. So, organizations are advised to develop simple just-in-time strategy reporting and monitoring frameworks when applying the discontinuous approach to strategy design and implementation.  Like the latter approach, such frameworks have to remain decentralized even as they feed into the centrality of the traditional corporate structure.

All that business owners have to do through their board of directors, is to give the anticipated-position bearing to their managers. The dynamics of how to move from the current to the final bearing is better left to the individual managers and their teams. The latter can’t be dictated in conference rooms – the reality is that in extremely complex and turbulent environments, strategy and tactics change every day based on what the situation is in the operating environment.

In conclusion, it has to be acknowledged that complexity and its cause and effect have negated fat-book strategy approaches. When managers adapt discontinuous and miniature approaches to strategy making, they may get more efficacy for their effort than when they operate conventionally.

How do we do the above? See you next week.


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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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