Gerry McGovern // New Thinking

Strategy is coherent, unified and understood

May 26, 2013 -- Gerry McGovern

Strategy needs to be coherent, with a strong, central driving force. It needs to be clearly understood throughout the organization.
 
There is a lack of coherence and unity today when it comes to online. We’ve got IT strategy, UX strategy, content strategy, marketing strategy, customer experience strategy. Too many strategies means no strategy.
 
Each discipline wants to drive strategy. That’s classic organizational, silo-based thinking. Strategy today must shape itself around the customer. It must be outward-leaning and network-focused. If it focuses on organizational silos and professional disciplines it will fail.
 
Strategic thinking comes from military thinking. It’s hard to win a battle if your ground troops, navy and air force are each trying to achieve different objectives.
 
“Most companies don’t concentrate,” Freek Vermeulen, associate professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School, states. “They cannot resist the temptation of also doing other things that, on an individual basis, look attractive. As a consequence, they end up with a bunch of alternate (sometimes even opposing) strategic directions that appear equally attractive but strangely enough don’t manage to turn into profitable propositions. Too many strategies lack focus.” This is often a perfect description of the websites and intranets of large organizations. Lots of stuff being added without coherence. Essentially, these websites are strategy-free zones.
 
“A strategy only becomes a strategy if people in the organisation alter their behaviour as a result of it,” Vermeulen states. A good strategy is holistic and joined up. It may be only a piece in a jigsaw but it is a piece that fits. It must be understood and acted-on throughout the organization. Otherwise, there is a real danger of the organization competing against itself.
 
Most organizations and empires are weakened from within long before competitors do any damage. Invincibility is the drug of success, and this often begins as the imagined invincibility of a particular product group, manager, division or discipline. Lots and lots of strategies that are only understood by their own narrow interest groups are a sure sign of organizational dysfunction.
 
The reason you have a strategy is to get better, to improve, to become more efficient and productive. A strategy for an intranet should focus on productivity and efficiency. Unfortunately however, this is rarely the case. This is because most organizations do not value the time of information/knowledge workers. Another reason is that the senior managers who develop strategy do not use—or rarely use—the intranet. (They have secretaries and support staff.) Therefore, they have little conception of how unproductive and time-wasting most intranets are.
 
And finally, intranets often end up being managed by internal communications. That’s a real challenge because seldom does internal communications concern itself with productivity and efficiency.
 
Strategies must be about value creation. How do we make money? How do we save money? They must deliver competitive advantage. They must deliver increased efficiency. Strategies are about getting better at what we do. Great strategies are about clearly stating what we have to do to become the best at what we do. Strategy clearly shows how what you do matters.
 
 
This is an excerpt from “Strategy & Online: How online is changing the game and the playing field for strategy development.”
 
Strategy and Online: How online is changing the game and the playing field for strategy development. (PDF 550)