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Meme #03

Strategy as a verb, not a noun

What does it mean?

Strategy is not something you have, but something you do. It should be constantly on your mind. A call to action, part of your everyday tasks and should be understood and adopted by the entire organisation. It should not be delimited to a statement of intent in the annual report, gathering metaphorical dust as the urgent crowds out the important. Strategy as a verb means you are constantly assessing and correcting course, in order to achieve your vision and stay relevant to your customers.

Why do we believe it's important?

We have lived through an Age of Strategy, where the highest expression of corporate importance was the creation and iteration of the annual ‘Strategy’. The frameworks and models for these strategies became ever more sophisticated and the data required to underpin them ever more voluminous. At the end of the annual Strategy process, (which often took a whole year!), a carefully crafted, rigorously argued, extensively calibrated and multi-dimensionally modelled report was given the imprimatur of the Board and the ExCom. Unfortunately, from the day after the strategy was signed off its value started to degrade, as it represented a point in time view of the world in which the organisation exists. A world which behaves as a complex adaptive system and continuously morphs and adapts to external events.

We believe, therefore, that for a strategy to be of maximum value it needs to constantly incorporate and adapt to an ever-changing external world. A strategic decision is rarely black and white, right or wrong; it is the best decision that can be made at a point in time, based upon a realistic assessment of the specific context and the evidence at hand, and aligned to the vision, goals and strategic intent of the organisation. A strategic decision might need to be adjusted or abandoned in the face of a new situation, and a good decision in time is better than a perfect decision that is too late.

For all these reasons we see strategy as a continuous process; a mindset; the sum of myriad day to day decisions; and we therefore talk of strategy as a verb, not a noun.

How do we put it into practice?

For a pioneering MedTech client, we showed how to live and breathe this principle. In doing so, we created a new product and commercial strategy that identified and tested blue ocean, uncontested revenue streams, and which as a result changed the enterprise value multiplier for the company. As opposed to a one-time intervention, we brought about a new operating model embracing Strategy as a verb and application of ‘validated learnings’, to deliver continuous innovation in what is a high-paced and highly competitive market.

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