Future strategic planning is essential for all organisations (and I’ll happily admit to being a bit of a strategy geek) and many organisations do strategy well. However, I see it being done really slowly in some organisations which causes major problems. I don’t believe that ‘fast strategy’ is an oxymoron, I believe it is an essential for most organisations.
I’m not a fan of the whole ‘VUCA’ label thing but I do agree that we live in a volatile world where many things around us are changing at pace. And therein lies one of the problems with future/strategic planning; A ‘traditional’ strategy project might take some time to understand the environment and trends, create and evaluate scenarios, create some strategic choices and then work with the Board to agree on future direction and strategic priorities. In volatile times, the world has moved on before you’ve even completed your review. If you decide that you need a re-organisation in order to deliver the change then you’ll need to commence another project. By the time you’ve completed the organisational design, defined new roles, mapped and recruited, and settled people into their new roles the world has definitely moved on! Apart from the fact that it isn’t usually the organisational structure that is the real problem (but there’s a rant for another day), I think many organisations are spotting fundamental and worrying shifts and taking ages to respond to them with big changes that take ages to implement.
To borrow a driving incident as an analogy; If you’ve driven a rear-wheel drive car in the wet then you might have personal experience of the car ‘fishtailing’ which is when the car oversteers into a skid which you notice and correct, sending the car into a skid in the opposite direction. I’ve been fortunate to experience this in the safety of a purpose-built skid pan. One of two things happens; you either run out of road or you learn to make much quicker, more responsive, smaller corrections (as you’ll often see if you watch F1). It is uncomfortable and dangerous and, I would imagine, even worse if you are a passenger sitting in the back!
I wonder how many organisations are ‘fishtailing’ their way along? Fast strategy is not an oxymoron, I believe it is an essential for these times.