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Strategy with Oomph

Strategy with Oomph

Rule One: Never approach strategy making as a purely analytical exercise

If you had to, which would you choose: to be a great strategic thinker or a great strategy maker? The answer follows the same logic as the question: "Would you rather be smart or rich?"

Most agree that it's better to be smart than rich since smart people can typically make money, but dumb lasts forever. Likewise, being gifted with a strategic mind-set is worthless without the ability to mobilize organizational commitment around the resulting strategy.

When CIOs are challenged with developing a strategy, I see time and time again the tendency to approach strategy making as an analytical rather than an emotional process. As a result, there is more focus on ensuring the right content than the right commitment.

To illustrate this point, let's take a look at the typical IT approach to strategy making. Either by calendar or inclination, the CIO decides it is time to develop a strategic plan. She tasks one of her brightest staff members to make it happen within the next three months. The staffer solicits the input of the other IT leaders and defines a scope that is challenging but doable within the prescribed time line. Broad participation is required, of course, so the staffer arranges for the CIO to announce the initiative as one of the organization's top priorities and to attend the launch meeting.

Now, the strategy-making process begins. The plan calls for joint business-IT strategy making to define the business context and the implications to IT-enabled capabilities. Once there is a good understanding of the needs of the business, the process will shift to defining how to meet those needs - from a technology and an organization perspective. It all makes perfect sense until theory meets reality: gaining broad participation within the defined scope and timeline will be impossible - everybody is just too busy.

So the staffer makes a critical (and fatal) decision: to shift from strategy facilitator to strategy doer. This way, the strategy will be completed on time to serve as input to the financial planning process. In the doer mode, the staffer conducts interviews externally and internally and drafts a document that meets the original scope. The CIO presents the strategy and, everybody nods their heads and gets back to business.

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