In the course of our strategic HR consulting work with our clients, the inadvertent question of ‘What is the vision of your company and what is your strategic plan?” will emerge as we begin to think deeper about the client's needs. Far too often, the ovearching HR strategy is not developed to drive the overall organisational strategy. Consequently, this creates inherent challenges in the HR programs, policies and underlying infrastructure of the organisation. It’s almost akin to buying and preparing all the ingredients before deciding what dish or even type of cuisine to cook.
Sometimes, we are told there is a vision statement but the client is not very sure what it is, and sometimes there isn’t a vision statement at all. And on a few occasions, the honest CEO will admit that they need one, but just haven’t gotten round to putting it together. Far from being disdainful, we know too well how easily one gets caught up with the daily challenges of selling and delivering, to pause and take time out for some strategic planning. Developing a strong strategy and keeping an eye on it to make mid-course corrections requires both discipline and keen insights on the developments within one’s immediate sector and the broader landscape.
I am heartened to see that the bent of strategy has moved away from the ‘classic strategy’ to ‘adaptive strategic', as the Monitor Institute’s framework describes this very well. In the given conditions that we operate with, one has to be bold enough to experiment and roll out minimum viable products to test the market. It is also critical to be far-sighted enough to recognise trends and patterns of the market and not rely entirely on data to make decisions. I must admit that in a corporate and for-profit environment (Monitor Institute’s work is philanthropic in nature), I am not entirely convinced that it is possible to have the entire organisation experiment with new ideas. But certainly, it would be viable to have a select few people (read: passionate and energised) put up their hands to be responsible for generating and testing new ideas. In smaller set-ups, it is a luxury to be able to have a dedicated team focusing only on ‘lab work’ as it is popularly called these days.
If you would like to read more on the concept of adaptive strategy, this article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review outlines it very well, and you may want to look it up.
The ‘Cascade of Strategic Choices’ provides a really useful framework to guide our thinking. If your business is a for-profit organisation, think about what problems your company can solve today and how your products/services can make a difference. The rest really wholly applies.
Amidst the myriad of choices that we face in determining the direction of our business, clarity of thought is something we must pursue.
Time for that strategic planning retreat!