Monday, October 15, 2018

Strategy in a Time of Explosive Change

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

May you live in interesting times – Chinese Curse

Interesting times indeed, no? The reasons are too long to recite here – changing technology, customer expectations, internationalization, rapid cultural shifts, the explosion of information…

Technological change, for example, is so rapid and severe that in many industries we can no longer confidently define value.

The ‘Eight Essential’ technologies – Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, AI, Blockchain, Robotics, Drones, Internet of Things, and 3-D Printing have exploded the ‘design space’.

Only by developing deep empathy with our customers & their customer journeys can we begin to understand what’s important to them. And even then, value is a moving target.

So it goes…

How to manage one’s business (and one’s life) in such times?

Let’s focus on the most important things first: How do we develop and deploy strategy in ‘interesting’ times?

Quick & ‘Easy’ Strategy

Keep it simple – if you can’t tell the story with one-page, do you understand it?

Accept that when it comes to strategy, perfection is impossible - and not even desirable! Remember, there is no right answer in strategy – only a right process!

Ensure, therefore, that purpose & logic are clear so that when you inevitably ‘pivot’, you’ll know what parts of your hypothesis were sound or not, and why.


Strategy is not about deciding what’s important. All the ideas your team proposes are likely ‘important’. But you can’t do them all – you have to choose.

Too often, leaders try to hedge their bets by choosing too much, with predictable results. Choose the critical few, check frequently, and be prepared to pivot.

Please don’t misunderstand the great Henry Mintzberg’s ‘emergent’ strategies concept. Just because you’re prepared to pivot, doesn’t mean you needn’t articulate a hypothesis!

Failing to do so, of course, condemns you to the limbo of endless reaction & limited learning.

Avoid Boring Strategy Docs

The typical corporate strategy comprises a ‘Mission’, ‘Initiatives’, and in effect, a ‘Budget with Prose’. (Tip of the hat to another great, Dr. Roger Martin, for this.)

These are deadly dull and have a soporific effect on your team. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ…..

Keep your strategy to one page, tell your story, and answer the Big Questions as simply and clearly as you can:

  1. Who are we and what do we believe in?
  2. Where are we going?
  3. How do we get there? (What’s our underlying logic?)
  4. What’s preventing us?
  5. What capabilities do we need to develop?
  6. What management systems do we need to develop?

These are difficult questions, of course, which require deep experience and reflection. To develop a good strategy we need to bounce between the worlds of action and thought.

As the saying goes, get out of the building.

And finally, even though we live in times of explosive change, remember that some things are eternal.

Reflection, experience and the intuition gained thereby are innately human, and unlikely to be replaced by technology.

More likely, in my view, technology will enable the strategist, just as a horse enables the rider.

But that’s the topic of another blog.

Here’s to interesting strategic journeys.

Best regards,


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