Strategy is like climbing a mountain!

I read a blog in Harvard Business Review by Roger Martin about strategy or rather about companies that did not have a strategy and it still has me a bit upset. Perhaps it’s about the grey in life, now that I appreciate the grey I can also appreciate well written strategy. My first conclusion from the article was that these CEO’s have not yet reached a point in their lives that the grey matters; they lack experience to do so. Age does have its advantages.

To have a strategy or not is like a company having leadership vs a company beeing managed. Success comes from leadership…

My second conclusion was that there is a need for clairification, so I’ll try to do this. My mind works in pictures and to explain how I see strategy I will try and paint you one. A vision that comes to my mind is one I learned when planning projects, with a twist.

Mountain

It’s like climbing a mountain, but it’s a race. You need to start by taking a long hard look at the mountain, you assess the competence of your team and your competition and you need to decide how you want to tackle the mountain. Do I go up the right flank to 1500m and then move to the middle, take the glacier up to the next level and go back over to the right to make a tough climb to reach the top, or do I choose the left flank taking a long detour though deep snow with constant risk of avalanches? There are risks to consider in both cases, one may require more resources and equipment but the other requires new resources and uncertain outcomes.

The decision is taken and the teams sent off. Managers STAY ON THE GROUND at base camp, observing the movement and progress of the teams and the competitors. From this vantage point they can make small decisions to support and encourage the route chosen, or there may be cause to change the course completely due to unexpected development on the planned route.  The plan keeps the teams focused, targeted and unified.

The teams each have a specific task, scouting ahead, hauling material making food, upholding communication, medical care and so on. Each team could also have strategies how they want to tackle their tasks based on the chosen route. Once the teams start climbing they will face challenges that they could not see from afar. These problems/potentials could be if the team should take a 20 m climb up a ridge or if they should take a 30m climb up a wall of ice. These are tactics that are used to best suit your team and the situation at hand. Each individual also faces their own challenges and needs to make constant decisions where to place their fingers, if they should place spikes and holders to help their team members or move quickly to get out of the cold and so on. The teams’ survival will depend on all these factors, but if you weigh them in the most crucial decision was the strategic one from the start.

I can understand that some companies are climbing mountains with low visibility and that this makes it difficult to predict what route to choose, never the less, the team that should climb the mountain stands a better chance to reach the top if one common rout is defined, no matter what, compared to letting each team scurry all over the mountain. The choice of route will depend on your teams’ skills and how they can adapt and they also need to be aware of the circumstances around the choice of strategy. In this case a higher level of adaptability is required and management might require more detailed reports of what lies ahead of the teams for them to be able to support from base camp.

I have also mentioned vision in my earlier posts. The vision is more in the area of “Adrenaline is life”. This answers why we do what we do. You cannot achieve the vision, but you should be able to connect with it in everything you do.

Then there is goal, what are we doing to reach our vision: “Climbing mountains provides us with thrills and challenges”.

Finally we have objectives, what are we currently doing to reach our goal: “We will climb Mont Blanc within a year”.

Vision, goal and objective are what put us in front of the current mountain…

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