As has often been noted, developments in the business environment are unfolding with increasing rapidity and are increasingly inter-related, meaning the time within which strategic responses must be implemented is getting shorter while the strategic complexity of what must be dealt with is increasing.
It is always possible to respond strategically to any challenge more rapidly on subsequent occasions. An important contributor to strategic response delays is the time taken to undertake strategic analysis, including specifying and collecting required information.
REDUCE CYCLE TIME
Over a decade ago, News Ltd established a national organisation to provide one stop advertising placement and billing for clients that previously needed to deal separately with each of its state-based newspapers. Account managers were appointed to undertake strategic analysis to support advertising campaign propositions to major clients. The strategic analysis studies were taking about three months to prepare and by the time they were ready the client advertising needs had changed. What was needed was a creative rethink of the traditional mental model that prescribed how advertising propositions were prepared. This rethink cut the three month preparation cycle to one month and required:
- Additional investment in maintaining detailed market profiles for all key client sectors that could be drawn upon by the relevant account management team when required; and
- Streamlining proposition report preparation.
News Ltd provides a typical example of an organisation that had no alternative other than to accelerate the strategic analysis processes it was undertaking; the process time was cut to a matter of weeks and large scale real time simulation modelling predicts cutting strategic analysis to a matter of minutes in the decade ahead. The strategic analysis processes requires on-going fundamental systemic rethinks if strategic responsiveness is to continue supporting the organisation’s competitiveness.
Typically, leadership teams are more inclined to rethink the assumptions upon which their positions are based rather than the positions themselves, which is deemed to be less threatening. The position “I believe that our financial strategy needs to be more tightly controlled” and the response “Why do you hold this view?” is more likely to trigger a subsequent dialogue regarding underlining assumptions and, as assumptions are reviewed from different perspectives, a more flexible strategic analysis response process is likely to emerge.
Diagram 1: A Holistic Systemic View of The Strategic Leadership Process
STRATEGIC POSITIONING SUPPORT
Up to roughly the early 1990s, most organisations undertook strategic analysis on a step by step sequential basis to an annual timetable. In the late 1990s most organisations adopted an emphasis on short term cost reduction at the expense of strategic positioning (similar to the strategic posture adopted in the late 2000s). However, by the early 2000s it became evident that investment in strategic positioning needed to be given a higher priority and be undertaken more frequently and more rapidly than in the past. Investment was needed to provide a variety of strategic support data and data visualisation systems that provide parallel processing on an on-going basis. Easy access to these support systems by all contributors to the strategic analysis process as and when required is essential.
Typically, where in-house central strategic analysis report compilation teams were established, the loss of control over the process by the responsible executive team was often reflected in output delays. The tendency has been to either outsource this function or configure it under direct control of the responsible executive team.
So, in summary, strategic responsiveness can be significantly improved over time if members of the strategic leadership team:
- Share mental models explicitly and collaborate purposefully with all stakeholders;
- Spread strategic considerations over the short, medium and longer term;
- Adopt a broadening scope of consideration in which focussed creativity is applied; and
- Create systemic, strategic and ongoing learning opportunities and stand back and reflect on experiences.