Anti-Strategy is an interesting phenomenon. Have you ever wondered why someone in the company, a peer, a direct report or even the boss has done something that just didn’t make sense? Maybe it was reorganization, a change in product direction, adding new people that should be in other organizations, or worse yet, done nothing? Of course you have. You are probably guilty of it yourself, although you may not realize it or don’t want to admit it. Smart, successful and highly compensated people often do things that don’t seem to fit or support the program or your perspective of the direction of the company.
They do it all the time. In today’s world of matrixed organizations, global locations and dispersed views, the probability of this happening is even greater. It is driven by phenomena we call Anti-Strategy. During our strategic execution work over the last few years we are seeing Anti-Strategy more and more.This is the result of well-intentioned people doing what they think is best because of a strategic vacuum. (Note: This article is the third in the series on Anti-Strategy. The entire series can be found here.)
Many organizations have strategies, but they are not detailed enough or well-known enough throughout the organization. This creates a strategic vacuum because people inside the organization do not have strategic and tactical objectives they can use as a litmus test for decision making. Every vacuum needs to be filled. It is a law of nature and a law of business. Vacuums suck people in to doing something. Someone somewhere will step up and fill the vacuum. It is inevitable. The real question is whether or not those actions will support the company’s strategic direction. When executives don’t have strategic and tactical objectives to guide them, they respond by taking actions to improve things based on their experience, background, education and personal preference. Think about the last strategy session you were involved in. Think about how many different approaches were presented to solve the same problem. I rest my case.
In a strategic vacuum, executives will typically take actions focused on their own organization because that is what they can control. Many times, those well intentioned actions do more harm than good. We recently worked on a project where everyone in the company knew that the CEO wanted to double the size of the company in 5 years. The leadership team hadn’t identified the product platforms and markets they were going to use as the basis for that growth. The result was a vicious cycle of “growth at any cost” which was disastrous for the P&L and incredibly frustrating throughout the organization and the board of directors. This is an example of Anti-Strategy at its best.
Every company is guilty of Anti-Strategy to some extent. Don’t believe me? Walk anywhere in your organization two or three levels removed from the executive team and ask this simple question:
“What is the company’s business strategy and what objectives are you responsible for that impact that strategy?”
The clarity and consistency of the answers you get will tell you how far the Anti-Strategy parasite has infested your organization. The fix starts at the top with well-planned strategic and tactical objectives and a business wide process for cascading those objectives throughout the organization: Much easier said than done, which is why 90% of companies don’t effectively implement their strategies.
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About the author: Jim Gitney is the CEO of Group50® Consulting and specializes in the development and implementation of manufacturing and supply chain strategies. Jim and the Group50 team are all former executives with well-known manufacturing and distribution companies who understand what it takes to put together and manage the implementation of a successful strategic plan. Group50 has designed a series of strategic assessments, workshops and strategic execution tools that eliminate the existence of Anti-Strategy. You can reach us at (909) 949-9083 or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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