Gerry McGovern // New Thinking

Strategy is about winning: The elements of strategy

May 12, 2013 -- Gerry McGovern

Winning is at the heart of strategy. Strategy has its roots in military thinking and the art of war is the art of winning.
 
According to A. G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble and Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, who co-wrote the book, Playing To Win, a strategy is “a coordinated and integrated set of five choices: a winning aspiration, where to play, how to win, core capabilities, and management systems”. It’s about establishing a “difference that matters” as Cynthia Montgomery, Timken Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, writes in her book, The Strategist.
 
Governments often struggle with the concept of winning as many government departments believe they don’t have competition. This may be true in a narrow sense, but in today’s interconnected world, countries compete with each other for resources and markets. Governments can win by being more efficient and less bureaucratic than their competitors (other governments).
 
“The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different,” Peter Drucker once said when talking about strategy. He went on to say that, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Strategy is about creating your own future. But according to Freek Vermeulen many organizations “write up their strategy in such a way that everything fits into what they were already doing anyway. This is much like generating a to-do list of activities you have already completed. Last year.”
 
From an organizational standpoint, the online revolution has happened very quickly and many senior managers are really struggling to understand it strategically. Some senior managers don’t even consider online as being part of the strategic puzzle. They think it’s an ‘IT issue’ or something like that; something that can be delegated. Online has become much too important to delegate.
 
I’ve been working as a web professional since 1994 and one thing that has always surprised me is how little time senior management spends thinking about and engaging with online. In 2012, we surveyed over 1,000 web professionals and their number one challenge was not competitors but their own senior management’s lack of engagement and understanding. That needs to change. There’s such a huge opportunity out there in the online world if we bring our best and most experienced minds to bear.
 
Unfortunately, when some senior managers do engage with online they bring old thinking, old strategies. The intranet is often owned by Communications and senior Communications managers tend to see the intranet as merely a publication where they can tell employees how great things are. When the public website gets senior management treatment it often ends up with huge billboard graphics on the homepage; nice smiling faces and vague marketing statements that tell the customer how great things are. (One thing is for sure: the empowered customer and employee do not want to hear platitudes.)
 
Online is a genuinely new game and playing field. We must bring new thinking if our strategies are going to succeed. If strategy is indeed about the future then it will increasingly be about online.
 
 
This is an excerpt from
Strategy & Online: How online is changing the game and the playing field for strategy development.
 
Strategy & Online: How online is changing the game and the playing field for strategy development. (PDF 550KB)