25 years of hands-on strategic design and execution have taught me a few lessons. I have witnessed organizations waste countless hours creating strategies that are never implemented or are quickly outdated. I have also seen businesses alter their plans overnight at the whim of intuitive CEOs, leaving staff puzzled and frustrated.
Let us look at these two extremes: deliberate vs. emergent strategies (see diagram below). Planned and deliberate strategies are systematic and engage many stakeholders. They give clear direction and stability. It is perhaps this type of strategy Mintzberg had in mind when he so rightly observed “strategies are to organizations what blinders are to horses; they keep them going in a straight line but hardly encourage peripheral vision”. Organic or emergent strategies surface out of the blue to react to a new prospect or a threat. They are novel and adapt readily to the fast pace of changing markets. They leave employees puzzled. The result is often botched-up execution, dissatisfied staff and disengaged stakeholders.
I encourage my clients to target the sweet spot at the junction of planned, deliberate strategies, and emergent learning. Together we map-out processes to develop, communicate, and execute strategies that remain evergreen. It is all about finding the right balance between control and spontaneity.