After my earlier post on a four-facet thinking framework I had some discussions with Riekert du Preez where we tried applying that way of think to his MBA research. His research, by the way is about Green IT. I want to share some of our thoughts, albeit with a more general question than what Riekert’s research addresses.
Let’s consider the very general question: “How do you decide on your strategy?“
Consider each of the four facets in turn:
1. “Forces from above” will influence you. Government regulations, stakeholder demands, general market forces, investor fiat, being some examples. Note that you have just about no control over these forces…
2. “Input” I’d like to rename to “Drivers“. Drivers are motivational factors, factors over which you have choice, i.e. you can decide that it is not important to you. Example drivers are customer demands, social responsibility, ethical considerations and cost savings.
Note that forces and drivers could initially look similar. Is market forces and customer demands not the same thing? Well, they are definitely related, but you have the choice to ignore some customer demands due to say economies of scale, but you’d be rather stupid to ignore the impact of the global financial crisis on your strategy…
3. the “Situation on the ground” facet represent acknowledge about our current situation, and here we thought it may (at least sometimes) be useful to think of two categories:
3.1 “Realities” that cannot (easily at least) be changed and does put constraints. Some examples here could be budget constraints, technology constraints and corporate culture.
3.2 “Status quo” factors that we need to recognize, but that we potentially can do something about. This could include infrastructure and organizational structures.
Clearly what can be changed or not, and therefore is reality to deal with or just status quo to consider depends on the context. Consider “skills” as a “situation on the ground”. If my strategy is around a new business opportunity, it is quite feasible to buy in the necessary skills, i.e. we need to consider how to change the status quo. If I am, however, working on a strategy for a university in a specific country “skills” of students is a reality to deal with, and I need to figure out how we can change it “after the fact”, i.e. it might be changed during the execution of the strategy, but not a-priori.
Note that for someone’s “realities” can be another’s “force from above”, and this will probably change over time. The global financial crisis may be a force in some situations, and a reality in others. On the one hand, if you are a banker, or a real-estate agent it may be one of the reasons why you need a new strategy. On the other hand, if you deal mostly local in a less influenced commodity (not sure what that would be?) it still is reality to deal with (your customers has less discretionary income), but it may not be forcing you to rethink at the same level as others.
So the final facet.
4. The “Output” facet when dealing with strategies seem awfully inadequate since the tendency would be to say we produce a “strategy”, most probably in the form of a strategy document… So, what is the result of deciding on a strategy? In my humble opinion it should dictate what we do, i.e. it should change/influence our practices. So for this question, I’d like to rename the facet to “Practice“. (Some other would want to call it tactics maybe?). To think holistically about our strategy we need to think what we should be doing differently. Obviously this can be a variety of things, including, marketing practice, people, design, operations, to name but a few.
You may differ with me on the labels, and even more so probably on my examples. That’s great, and it exhibits one extremely important property for me about frameworks:
Frameworks are thinking tools. It forces us to think about issues, seeing things that we maybe would have missed otherwise. Therefore the important aspects is not the semantics of the label, but what it helps you achieve! Is it perfect? Of course not, but you reduce the risk of oversight…
What mechanisms/frameworks do you use to make sure that you reduce the risk of missing important issues?