Strategic Thinking vs Strategic Planning

Volume 13 Letter 1

“Strategy without tactics is a slow road to victory
Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”

Watching Blackberry is like watching a shooting star slowly flame out. In 2007 the iPhone debuted and since then Blackberry (RIM) has lost 70% of its value. Perhaps they’ll get some of their mojo back with the launch of their new operating system this week but it will be tough. It’s interesting to see a company that so dominated its industry burn up because of a lack of strategy. At an investor meeting several years back an analysts asked Mr. Lazaridis then co-CEO of RIM whether his company was moving to add a color screen, a feature found on devices in Asia. “Do I need to read my email in color?” he shot back.2 His response was indicative of what was happening at RIM at the time. When your CEO can’t articulate what they’re doing and what’s happening around them you’re going to be victimized by more strategic minded rivals 3. Companies don’t need more managers they need leaders…..strategic thinkers at every level of the organization.

A study done by the American Marketing Association found that the most important competency for a leader is the ability to develop a strategy 4. Sadly the same study showed that only 4% of leaders at any level in an organization thought strategically (ie. could identify keys issues and had plans to deal with them). As crazy as that figure is, it’s not surprising when you consider another study that found that less than 10% of all managers have ever had any training in strategy or strategy development. The data gets worse:

  • 85% of all leaders spend less than 1% of their time on business strategy4
  • 50% spend no time at all
  • Of all the companies that ‘stall’ and are eventually sold or liquidated 70% of those companies fail due to a poor strategy5

Insight is at the heart of strategic thinking. Market insight is the seed of all new growth and new opportunities. Without it your business / your business unit will stall. Strategic planning takes market insights and puts them into a plan of action. As you make your plans for 2013 stop confusing busyness with effectiveness! Busy is the enemy of Insight and Strategic Thinking. To gain market insights one needs to disconnect – step back – take some time to reflect and think.

  • Take time to reflect and think about your strategy
  • Involve your team – set aside “specific times” to discuss your strategy
  • Do it often – it’s OK to think about the future. That’s what leaders do!

Strategic thinking isn’t something you do once in a while – its something you practice all the time. Take time; time to learn and time to think about your company’s strategy. Start to “see what everyone else has seen before and” begin to “think what now one else has thought before”7 – that’s Strategic thinking!

1. Sun Tzu The Art of War
2. Wall Street Journal June 28th 2012 WSJ details RIMS long decline Quate attributed to Brian Blair, then an analyst with Banc of America Securities
3. All The Dumb Things RIM’s CEOs Said While Apple And Android Ate Their Lunch Jay Yarow, Business Insider|Sep. 16, 2011
4. Jay Jamrog et al “Leading into the future, a global study on leadership American Marketing Association 2006
5. M Olson, D van Bever, “When Growth Stalls” HBR March 2008
6. The bible the Apocrypha Ecclesiasticus 38 vs24;25;
7. B.Garratt, Developing Strategic Thought: Rediscovering the Art of Direction Giving London McGraw Hill 1995
8. Robert Kaplan and David Norton, “The Office of Strategic Management” HBR Oct 2005
9. Quote from Albert Szent-Gy̦rgyi, 1893 Р1986

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