Monday, February 23, 2009
Strategy in the real world
Image courtesy of fabuleuse
Strategy is generally thought of as a linear process. Set and agree objectives. Work out strategy and execute. Job done. This understanding of how strategy works, is what we are comfortable with. It makes sense.
If only it were this easy.
Karl Weick uses an interesting story to explain how strategy might actually work in the real world...
During some military maneuvers in Switzerland, a unit of soldiers got caught in a snow blizzard in the Alps. They went missing for several days. Completely lost. Just when their lieutenant, back at base, was convinced that they were dead, they walked in the door.
How did they find their way back? One of the soldiers handed the lieutenant a map, explaining he'd found it in one of their bags. This had saved their lives. Looking at it, the lieutenant realised that it wasn't a map of the Alps, but of the Pyrenees.
When you are lost, any map might do.
As with strategy, when confused, any strategy plan will do. Surely not? Well, he suggested that strategic plans get people thinking and doing - "Once people begin to act, they generate tangible outcomes in some context, and this helps them discover what is occurring, what needs to be explained, and what should be done next".
The leader may know the map is wrong but he or she needs to instill some confidence in the team. Get them moving and at least understand where they are now.