Strategy is Destiny

A few years back I learned something about myself –indirectly of course – because usually you only really learn the real juicy things in life in a roundabout, indirect way don’t you!?  Well, in my experience you do anyway!

Anyway, I was doing a course on business strategy and one of the most respected teachers and authors on the subject Mr. Burgelman himself was at the front of class explaining all you ever need to know about strategic plans and decision making…  his first instruction was of course to read his book Strategy is Destiny (he didn’t really, but I have a signed copy with a dedication in my bookshelf so I just wanted to brag a little!).  No, his lesson ultimately boiled down to two simple ideas:

The first is that only decisions that can’t easily be undone or that commit significant resource (money or people power) that cannot be replaced are truly strategic – all other decisions are tactical. 

This may sound simple but if you apply to this concept to most decisions that are made in business then you will find that a lot of “strategic” decisions are not really that at all. Even worse though is that a great number of choices are made without the realisation that they are committing resource that could otherwise be doing something more useful – becoming strategic by stealth.  Just as maddening are of course those important decisions that are delayed due to dithering directors and indecisive boards.  We see it every day at work – and hand’s up – we’ve all been guilty of it ourselves from time to time (just not very often I hope!) but we must acknowledge that when decisions are delayed a vital un-replenishable resource is being wasted:  TIME – and lots of it!

The second idea, and for me the most important and one that I believe explains how I have lived (and continue to live) my life is inspired by the great military leader Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon explained his basic military strategy thus: “On s’engage et puis on voit” (“I engage and then I see”). 

Simple, N’est pas? Napoleon’s strategy I mean – not my life… obviously!

Burgelman would say that plans and scenarios are of course vital (and yes, this is not a strategy that means you don’t have to do any planning or think ahead because such strategies rely only on one thing: luck!) but until you actually roll the dice and “engage” with your plan, or in my case with life and then “see” what happens around you as you do – you cannot make evidence based tactical choices to help you achieve your goals as things occurs and new unforeseen barriers are raised or new opportunities appear.

The wider your scope of vision – and I am just itching to use the word holistic here – the better when it comes to that all important “eye in the sky” element – but seeing without doing doesn’t work and doing without the ability to influence doesn’t either. Oh, a plan and some goals are helpful too!

So yes, 2010 was a very challenging year but also strangely rather rewarding in some rather unexepcected ways so I will continue to live my life in this manner, as I know that if I keep my mind working those scenarios and “engaging and seeing” I will ultimately have the best chance of achieving my life goals!

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2 Responses to Strategy is Destiny

  1. nj says:

    I could buy into the “engage and see” mindset but it takes a fair amount of confidence to be sure you can handle whatever happens and should go hand in hand with some thorough risk assessment!

  2. Pingback: A few of my favourite things | Dead clever

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