Strategy is Choice

Post date :

May 26, 2024

Strategy is Choice

If philosophy is the art of asking questions, strategy is clearly the art of answering questions and making critical choices. "Strategy is a framework to guide critical choices to achieve a desired future," said Donald Sull in an MIT Sloan Management Review webinar.

Strategists probably would like to see themselves as overachievers able to carry many different transformations in parallel. But one thing is to aspire for a better future, another is to put too much on your plate and fail. "You can do anything, but not everything," as David Allen reminds us. We have limitations of time, resources, team, and budget. So, we must make smart choices about what to do, what not to do, what to focus on, and what to stop. The crux of the matter when it comes to strategy is to make these tough decisions to maximise the chances of successful implementation of the strategy. If not, you are just wishful thinking.

The first choice is to define what success looks like. Strategy must clarify precisely what we are trying to achieve in the long term financially or not (and what not). This choice is probably the most structuring one as it will impact everything down the road. The other key outcome to choose is what we want to offer to our clients (and what not), and in a broader way, what we want to offer to society as a whole (and what not).

The second choice is to define how to deliver on our expected financial, market, or societal outcomes. Strategy should define the appropriate economic model to put in place and the strategic themes to focus on. The organization must choose whether to prioritize operational efficiency, geographic growth, client centricity, environmental focus, or innovation, as examples. It can choose some of these pillars, but not all of them. Strategy should also identify the relevant enablers that will unlock these pillars: which people do we need to transform the organisation as expected, which specific skills do we need to excel at, what kind of culture do we need to develop, what systems, processes, and funds should we enable. All these choices are critical to any strategic exercise.

The third choice is to define what to do. Strategy must identify a portfolio of transformational initiatives and prioritise the necessary budget and team to ensure their execution. It must differentiate between the day-to-day actions versus the strategic actions. Some projects are important, even critical, and perhaps urgent. But none of that means they are strategic initiatives and that they will help the organization to transform itself.