Adaptive Strategy Management in the Age of Uncertainty: 100 Thoughts

This is a collection of 100 short thoughts that James has posted on LinkedIn over the past 18 months.

Whilst the framework had been developing for a number of years, it became turbocharged by the Pandemic and strengthened through the current crises. Navigating such crises (and learning how to secure benefits) will become the new norm for organization, and society more broadly, in this the Age of Uncertainty.

  1. The century-old approach of linear strategy management: one group builds the plan and another implements, with the plan being fixed for extended periods, is no longer fit-for-purpose (not that it ever was!).

What we now need is an approach centred on a constant interplay between internal and external stakeholders and between internal formulators and implementors. Strategies do need to be frozen for a time (say a quarter) and then unfrozen for review and to order required interventions.

The challenge is that while thinking holistically, we must also implement with a large degree of linear sequencing. An interesting practical and cultural challenge.

2.“Strategy is a set of assumptions that must be verified (or not) in execution.”Too often we forget this. The cold truth is however beautiful the strategy is, and however many days and nights have been spent building the plan, it still might not prove successful in execution.

  1. What is strategy?Ask 100 strategists and you’ll get 100 different answers. But does it matter?

I get each member of a senior team to write down on a piece of paper what they think the term means. Then I get them to read it out (with the CEO going last!!). It can be surprising to note the differing interpretations.

Then I say that there isn’t a right or wrong answer. Agree on what it means to you as a team.

I recall one CEO saying to me that he struggled to understand why the strategy review sessions weren’t working well and then he realized it was because everybody was talking about different things. When he got a common agreement, the sessions were much better, and execution went a lot more smoothly.

  1. I ask clients to answer two questions and that I am looking for two different answers:
  1. What products do you make, or services you deliver?
  2. What do you sell?

Organizations do not sell a product or service. They sell a “function” that is valued by the customer. Kodak, famously, thought they sold film and film processing. They did not. They sold a function by which customers could capture memories or moments in time. Digital film technology (which ironically was invented in the Kodak laboratories) did that more effectively – and, of course, cheaper.

This is one reason why I am not a great fan of customer satisfaction metrics. I am sure that at the turn of the 20th century, many of the firms that sold horses and carriages would have scored highly in terms of customer satisfaction.  Meant zilch when Ford mass-produced affordable cars.  Customers were looking for a function – getting from A to B quickly, comfortable and at an affordable price. The automobile did that much better than a horse and carriage.

When crafting and implementing a strategy, keep in mind the absolute importance of understanding the function that is being sold – and how disruption could render the product obsolete.

  1.  Strategy and Risk are two sides of the same coin. In today’s fast-moving and unpredictable world, we cannot manage our strategic performance aspirations (what we want to achieve) without paying equal attention to risk (what might derail our aspirations).

We cannot manage our strategic performance aspirations (e.g. what we want to achieve) without paying equal attention to risk (e.g. what might derail our aspirations).

Each strategic objective (with accompanying KPIs, targets, and initiatives) must also be supported by a key risk event, KRIs, thresholds, and mitigations). On top of this, organizations must have robust business resilience/continuity planning mechanisms.

I do not believe that (in most cases) the strategy unit and risk unit should be merged. Both should make their independent assessments and recommendations to the senior team

  1. Reviewing the Performance of a strategy would be more effective if managers and staff simply understood the basics of measurement. Assumptions are too often made based on single data points or statistically invalid surveys, or a simple misinterpretation of what the KPI is reporting.

I recall that after delivering a workshop on Strategic KPIs one young delegate said to me, “That was the worst experience of my professional life.” A bit stunned I asked why. She replied, “Because I’ve learned that everything I’ve done over the past three years has been wrong.” Not uncommon in my experience.

It is odd that organizations are often obsessed by measures but fail to offer training in measurement.

There also needs to be an understanding that KPIs are the beginning of the conversation, not an end in itself. And that the I stands for indicator – it is an indicator of performance, not the full story.

  1. Conventional Vision statements are typically meaningless and offer no guides for performance improvement. For example, “To be the Number 1 gas (or whatever) company.” Number 1 in what exactly and how will this be achieved and measured?

I prefer to use what I call a Strategic Ambition. This is a short, one-line, description of what success will look like at the end of the strategic horizon. The Ambition defines the niche, includes a quantifiable, high-level measure of success, and is timebound.

As a client example,” By transitioning from transaction-based to relationship-based customer management in the [specialist manufacturing} market, we will generate $X billion in revenues with $X billion on EBITDA, by 202X”

This can then be practically distilled in strategic objectives, KPIs, and initiatives.

  1. The key steps in using a Balanced Scorecard system to translate the strategy into action.

Step 1: Develop a Strategic Ambition outlining what success will look like at the end of the strategic horizon, the key value differentiator/s, and a high-level metric of success.

Step 2: Develop a Strategic Change Agenda that describes what good will look like against critical performance dimensions from the four scorecard perspectives (“to be”) and what performance looks like now (“as is”).

Step 3: The Strategic Objectives are then drawn from the “expected” and are typically obvious.

Step 4: For each objective write a Value Narrative.  At the outcome level, this is one paragraph explaining why it is strategically important; at the enabler level, it is two paragraphs on why it is important and how it will be achieved.

Step 5: KPIs are then chosen based on the narrative and are ideal ta mixture of lead and lag indicators.

Step 6Initiatives are then chosen to close the gap between present and targeted performance within the KPIs. No initiatives support the outcome perspective, only the enabler perspective where the work is done to deliver the outcomes. Key continuous improvement activities must also be identified.

In assessing performance, it is critical to use advanced data analytics – predictive and descriptive – to understand what is going on and is likely to happen next. Actually, this is more important than the KPIs, especially as KPIs never work in isolation.

  1. Developing a Scorecard of KPIs in isolation is an exercise in plain stupidity. 

Without knowing the Strategic Gaps and Strategic Objectives they support, what is the point of KPIs?

Also, without the initiatives, and continuous improvement interventions, to close the performance gap for each KPI (present to targeted state) then how does the KPI improve anything?

I recently read an HBR article on the “value” of a KPI Scorecard once the relationship between the KPIs is understood. But that relationship is meaningless unless we are using that to look at relationships between Strategic Objectives and the closing of the Strategic Gaps.

  1. There seems to be an odd emerging discussion about KPIs vs. analytics (as if they are somehow in competition).  This is unhelpful and is missing the point. The conversation should be about learning and improving and how KPIs and analytics work together to support this (although I do argue more greater attention on the data analytics).

At the operational level, real-time measurement and analytics have been around in some form for a long-time. Rapid digitalization and EA-enabled systems significantly enhance deep learning and the speed of responding.

At the strategic level, KPIs and analytics play distinct roles. We don’t want to make instant decisions based on KPIs (which play a very different role than operational measures), as we are looking more at trends over time and other factors, such as what we are learning from the marketplace, etc., and how that might impact future performance.

I am seeing huge steps forward in how we think about and make use of analytics at the strategic level, but little new thinking when it comes to KPIs. We need to reimagine strategic KPIs and how they work in aiding learning and improving. – analytics plays a key role here.

  1. A major failing of how Balanced Scorecard systems are typically structured is that the Customer Perspective describes what the organization wants from the customer – such as customer loyalty.

What customer has ever asked:

“A key strategic goal that we have is to show you greater loyalty. How can we be more loyal?”

This is wrong. What customer has ever asked, “A key strategic goal that we have is to show you greater loyalty. How can we be more loyal?” The Customer Perspective should describe the outcomes the customer wants from the supplier, such as “Be My Preferred Partner to Grow my Business,” in a commercial setting,” or “Provide Me with Greater Economic Opportunities,” in a local government environment.

Supported by a well-described Objective statement (or as I call it a Value Narrative), which at the outcome level (Financial and Customer) is one paragraph explaining why the objective is strategically important, the supplier can then identify the enabling objectives (Internal Process and Learning & Growth) to deliver that objective.

Therefore, write the customer objectives in the voice of the customer, not in the voice of the supplier.

  1. I find terms such as “Strategic HR” or “Strategic Marketing” unhelpful. All functions should have objectives that support the organizational strategy. This is called alignment and is why functional Balanced Scorecards are so important.

A functional Balanced Scorecard enables functions or departments to ensure they have line-of-sight with the organizational strategy, while also developing the capabilities required to both support the strategy and further develop its own function-specific skills.

The functional leadership team should assess the organizational Balanced Scorecard system and decide where it can support directly (so the same objective, etc.,) where it has a more specific contribution (so the objective or KPI is worded different but clearly supports the parent objective) or where function-specific objectives are required that are too localized to appear in the organizational Balanced Scorecard System. Kaplan and Norton explained this very well.

  1. In its 2021 “State Of The Global Workplace” report, Gallup concludes that “85% of employees are not actively engaged or (are) actively disengaged at work.”

This despite the fact that organizations pour huge amounts of money into employee engagement programs – each year, American companies alone spend more than $100 billion a year on employee engagement interventions.

So why the poor levels of engagement? All consultancies will provide their version of the magic bullet. Do this and your employees will be soon fully engaged.

To me, lack of engagement remains stubbornly high for one core reason. Whatever they look like, they are mostly implemented in organizations that still (typically unknowingly) operate according to the command and control, do not trust employees, Tayloresque system of management. That’s what we need to dismantle. If not done, billions of dollars will continue to be poured down the drain each year.

  1. With the pandemic still front of mind, much is being written about the criticality of strategic risk management (great, yes, but this was also the case for a short time post the financial crisis).

Much of this has been focused on the “unknown unknowns” – strategic risks such as earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and, of course, pandemics. Contingency/resilience planning is gaining extra attention (rightly so).

But we must also focus on the “known unknowns” of strategic risk management. That is the risks to the strategy that can be monitored and mitigated, such as if a customer that accounts for a sizable amount of revenue goes out of business, or a major supplier, for that matter.

All Strategic Objectives must have a supporting Strategic Risk Event, Key Risk Indicators, and mitigations.

Processes must also be in place to mitigate strategic risks that are “known knowns,” such as process failure or fraud. Alongside the plans for managing the “known unknows” and “unknown unknowns” if they should materialize, would mean that strategic risk has full coverage.

  1.  I expect a backlash, but I still don’t get OKRs?

“OKRs describe your highest priorities for the next 30-90 days. More importantly, OKRs represent meaningful change, improvement, and growth. For that reason, they can often seem like they’re asking for extraordinary, above-and-beyond performance…

When we talk about OKRs, we’re talking about inspiring accomplishment. Big things like:

  • Introducing disruptive innovations
  • Establishing differences between you and your competitors
  • Being recognized as an industry leader in your category.”

If you are not already an industry leader, or very close, then good luck with achieving this in 30-90 days.

“OKRs point out what we need to do next.” No, they don’t, they are distilled into Key Results, which are basically KPIs.”

 “… unlike Key Results, [KPIs] aren’t necessarily attached to an Objective.” They are in the Balanced Scorecard system.

Unlike the Balanced Scorecard, I see no mention of Initiatives (what do we actually do to achieve the Key Results?) As with KPIs, KRIs simply track progress – and nothing more. Try losing weight by setting an audacious goal over 90 days, use scales to assess improvement, but don’t bother with a diet or change in lifestyle. What will happen? 

Also, zero mention of causality and inter-dependence.

Thus far, I see no benefits over the Balanced Scorecard, which also has a 90-day review cycle, so targets can be set over that timeframe – but there will also be actions: that is, what we will actually do!

  1. I have long scratched my head as to why organizations continue with the conventional Budget. These days, the scratching is more intense as we still believe that, despite the unpredictable world we compete in, we can, with some level of accuracy, allocate resources in, say, December 2021 for December 2022.

The conventional process also strengthens the siloed mindset as departments compete for resources.

From a strategy viewpoint, Professor Kaplan once said that unless we can fix the budget/strategy disconnect, strategies will continue to fail. The reality is that management focus on delivering the budget, not the strategy, which means longer-term investments get rejected in terms of shorter-term interventions that will deliver this year’s budget.

I have long preferred a Rolling Forecast approach. Forecasts are updated typically to a quarterly cycle, over say six quarters (and will much greater accuracy expected over Q1 and 2 than 5 and 6), and with much fewer line items. In a strategy review, the rolling forecast can be assessed alongside the progress of the strategy and resources allocated or reallocated to Strategic Initiatives or interventions appropriately.

However. the conventional budget is so deeply ingrained that I expect managers will continue with this dysfunctional annual dance. Even though most know it is a silly tune to dance to.

  1. I am often asked, “which should we use “The Balanced Scorecard or the EFQM Model?”

My answer is simple. “It is not either/or, as they serve very different purposes.” The Balanced Scorecard distils the strategy into objectives, KPIs, targets, and initiatives. It is a framework for translating and managing strategy implementation. EFQM is a self-assessment framework for measuring the strengths and areas for improvement of an organization across all its activities.

I recommend using an EFQM assessment as part of an annual strategy review. One client example is when they had an objective focused on customer engagement, set corresponding KPIs and targets, and launched employee training as an initiative. The annual assessment was extremely useful in assessing overall progress toward their customer-facing objective and KPIs. With the training being rolled out, they could assess the differences in performance between those that received the training and those that had not.

Warning. The following might annoy some.

EFQM now claims that…” the…Model has shifted from being a simple assessment tool to one that offers a vital framework and methodology to help with the changes, transformation, and disruption that individuals and organizations face every day.” 

Well, that covers just about everything and is therefore totally meaningless.

I attended the first EFQM Awards ceremony back in 1992 (as Editor of The TQM Magazine) and do find that what was a remarkably simple and effective model has become extraordinarily complex. But as we all know, humans (especially we consultants) are experts at finding ways to make the simple, complex

  1.  My take on the perennial debate on the effectiveness of employee appraisal systems.

They are never effective. There should be a constant two-way dialogue between a manager and the next level down (and captured in records) as well as recorded, anonymous input from co-workers, external customers/suppliers, etc.

The present systems smack of the command and control, divide, and rule and distrust the workers managerial thinking that has dominated since the days of Taylor.

Oh, and how can you get employees to focus on strategy when they are assessed purely on short-term individual performance. Nonsensical.


  1. Perhaps, I’m throwing down the gauntlet, but anybody who believes that in designing a strategy, identifying strategic risks should not be as important as strategic performance targets is foolish.

In today’s globally connected world, don’t think that the Covid pandemic is a one-off. The next global crisis might not be a pandemic, but there will be something, and I imagine on a fairly regular basis – albeit at different levels of geographic/industry impact.

I wouldn’t build a strategy without identifying the risks to each strategic objective and would report both as part of strategy review meetings. Robust Business Continuity/Resilience processes are also a must-have.

For most organizations, I would not advise merging the strategy and risk teams. They have and must have different perspectives. But both should be reported, with equal importance, so that senior teams can make informed choices.

  1.  What is Strategy? A perennial and unanswered question. So, before stating what I think it is, this is what I believe it is not.

It is not an amplification of the Mission. A Mission, such as Google’s “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” provides an excellent overarching description of why the organization exists, but that is not a strategy, which is clear as to where the organization wishes to compete and why: critical to a strategy (note that Google does not mention the Internet).

This might cause some kickback. Strategy is not long-term. Three-Five years (typical strategic horizons) can hardly be truly described as long-term. More accurately, they are relatively short-term aspirations that being “a set of assumptions that must be verified in execution,” should not be set in stone over the lifetime of the strategy – tweaks or more fundamental overhauls should always be seen as possibilities. Strategy should always be dynamic.

To me, strategy is about an interactive process (between the external and internal environments) to constantly learn about the “outside” world, and where appropriate – and after some reflection – thus avoiding knee-jerk reactions to sudden marketplace movements: economic, political changes that might prove short-term in nature -making required adjustments to internal operations.

To a significant extent strategy is about, and as quickly as appropriate, operationalizing, and so building the capabilities for, exploiting emerging opportunities (and quicker than the competition: first mover advantage). Indeed, I am seeing a continued blurring of what we think of as strategy and operations, although I also see them as different things – a strange contradiction, as Drs Kaplan and Norton explained very well in their book “The Execution Premium. By the way, I do not think approaches such as OKRs have gotten this rapid operationalization of strategic opportunities anywhere near right – I will write more fully on this elsewhere.

We need to stop thinking “what do we want to do over the long-term ” (people typically have little interest in anything with a “long-term” label, as there’s always something more important to do). Rather, and based on solid analysis (which will be subject to ongoing learning) decide where do we h

Yes, selecting a set of complementary strategic themes, placing within a strategic plan, and supported by an execution framework such as The Balanced scorecard, over 3-5 years, provides a true north – a solid mechanism with which to work. But do not see this as a set-in-stone answer. I always relate this to General Eisenhower’s comment: “The plan is nothing. Planning is everything.

  1. The Balanced Scorecard is NOT an execution system. It doesn’t execute anything. It is a framework for translating the organizational strategy into concrete objectives, KPIs, and Initiatives.

Execution is the implementation of the Strategic Initiatives (programs/projects) and continuous improvement (or creation) of strategic processes.

Indeed, in the Execution Premium Process (XPP), there is a Phase between Stage 3 (Plan Operations) and Stage 5 (Monitor & Lean) called Execution. Stage 1-3 complete the translation, stages 5 and 6 is where the learning and adapting takes place.

Too many organizations believe that simply formulating a Balanced Scorecard System is the execution piece (oftentimes because of the strange belief that all you need is the correct KPIs). Nope.

  1. A Vision Statement often sits atop an Organization’s Strategy Map. I generally find this unhelpful for selecting the Strategic Objectives, KPIs and Strategic Initiatives that will execute the current the Strategic Plan.

A Strategic Ambition describes what the organization aims to achieve over the lifetime of the Strategic Plan.

Therefore, I use what I call a “Strategic Ambition.”  “Others call it a “Quantified Vision,” but this often causes confusion with the actual Vision.

A Strategic Ambition describes what the organization aims to achieve over the lifetime of the Strategic Plan, which primary capabilities will help in its realization and with a quantifiable measure of performance. As examples:

“By May 2027, XXX will be an $X billion in revenues organization with $X billion in EBITDA, based on our specialist knowledge and geographical focus.”

“By May 2027, our distinctive ability to integrate world class research, scholarship and education will have secured us a place among the top 50 universities in the world, as measured by the XXX World Universities Ranking.”

  1. The Strategic Planning Function, as designed, followed the still accepted rules of Frederick W, Taylor – compartmentalize operations and one function did a part of the work and handed cover to another function. No function cared about what the other function did and was told not to. It wasn’t their job.

Strategy still works that way – one group formulates and plans and hands over to another group to execute. No idea where strategic learning sits.  No wonder strategies typically fail.

The clinging onto Taylorism is a major, if not the, major reason for continued employee and customer dissatisfaction. No matter how many billions of dollars we spend on it. But we still do it. Strategy is no exception.

  1. Does the Executive Leadership Team have a common and agreed understanding of what Strategy actually means? From my experience, not often.

I recall a conversation I had with a CEO of an organization in Singapore. They manufacture Jeans and similar clothing. He told me he had been struggling to make any headway with the execution of the Strategic Plan. He spent a long time scratching his head trying to figure what the problem was.

Then one Sunday Afternoon while relaxing with a beer in his lounge and watching Football, or Soccer as Americans call it, the reason why came to him. Actually, this is how innovation works – but that’s another post.

He said: “Around the Leadership Table I had a Director of Manufacturing, whose ideal world was two sizes of jeans in two colours. On the other side of the table I had a Director of Marketing, who had to sell these jeans to teenagers who changed their minds about their preferred colour and what size they were every 20 minutes!

As he realized both Directors lived in different worlds, so had very different takes on what Strategy should be.

Before formulating and, more importantly perhaps, implementing a Strategy, make sure the ELT agrees on what it means. Will help avoid a lot of confusion and competing agendas.

  1. I think of Strategy this way:

What does Newtonian Mechanics teach us? Basically, that if we pull a lever in one place there’s a predictable result somewhere else. And this is how we think about Strategy Management. The plan is done, so pull a lever and the execution is predictable.

What does Quantum Mechanics teach us? That if we pull a lever in one place, the result is unpredictable.

Both are correct in Mechanics, and both are right in Strategy Management

“When it comes to describing how value is created, a Strategy Map sacrifices some degree of precision for practical usability (a 2D map rather than a 3D model) and that this was a conscious decision.

Organizational value is not quite delivered according to the flat cause and effect assumptions within a map, but the relationships provide a strong enough picture and narrative to overcome the negatives of imprecision.”

“A Picture and Narrative,” And that is precisely why we need a strategy, despite its imprecision.

  1. Some might find this statement odd, but perhaps we no longer need an “Annual Strategy Refresh,” and the obligatory, and often very pleasant off-site sojourn.

Strategies can be updated (or overhauled) at any time it is deemed necessary. This would require a much deeper drill than a regular Strategy Review Meeting of course.

We could call this Rolling Strategic Planning, along the same lines as Rolling Financial Forecasts, which typically sets financial forecasts over a six-quarter period but pays much more attention to the first two quarters, and each quarter the forecasts over the next six quarters are updated.

  1. Why do organizations continue to cling onto the myth that we can predict the future with a great amount of accuracy?
  1. Rather than the “Knowledge Era,” or “Digital Era,” I think of this as the “Unpredictable Era.”

For this reason, I am flummoxed when organizations design and execute (or try to) Strategy without paying equal attention to performance (objectives KPIs, targets and Initiatives) and risk (risk events, KRIs, tolerance levels and mitigations).

In this, the Unpredictable Era, any Strategy Review session should consider both performance and risk.

  1. Recently I have been asked to review several Strategic Plans. In each case my feedback was “this is not a Strategy; it is a PR document.”

A great deal about “how important the customers were” and having a “great team of employees.”  And a lot about the importance of corporate values.

Nothing, or almost nothing, about the value differentiator or how they would execute the Strategy (not that I was clear what it was) or the challenges to overcome.

That said, I have to concede that there were lots of lovely photographs.

  1.  In expectation of disagreement, I have never been a fan of terms such as HR Strategy, IT Strategy, Marketing Strategy, etc.

There is one Strategy, and that is the Organization’s Strategy. Each function has to develop interventions that support the Strategy of the Enterprise. 

Take HR, for example, it needs to understand the human capabilities and processes required to help deliver the Organizational Strategy (hence the importance of the Learning & Growth Perspective in a Balanced Scorecard System).

But HR cannot deliver value in isolation from other functions, so cannot develop a Strategy in isolation. To me, terms such as HR Strategy simply reinforce the pervasive silo-based views of working. “This is what HR does.”  I only care about what HR does (or IT, etc.) in combination with other support functions to support the Strategy.

  1. I like the usage of Strategic Themes on a Strategy Map, which means that objectives working together toward a common goal – such as operational efficiency – can be viewed together and performance toward the goal better coordinated.

However, there is a danger that we forget that Strategic Objectives will typically have interdependencies with objectives in a different theme.

We might unintentionally end up viewing a theme as a new form of “silo.” The silo-based mindset is so well ingrained that often we naturally, and unknowingly, look for ways to fit any work to that view of working.

  1. More a question (and hopefully the beginning of a conversation) than an observation.

My posts on the ongoing damage caused by the pervasive, and well-entrenched, silo-based working mentality have garnered a lot of comments.

I am grappling with possible solutions (which are more cultural than structural) and will post updates on my thinking as they evolve.

So, the question is: “If we accept that silo-based working continues to negatively impact organizational performance, while also accepting that specialist expertise is still required, how can we begin to dismantle the mindset?” 

Not an easy question to answer and for many reasons, challenging to established hierarchical management system (and the power – and enhanced salaries- that come with the command-and-control system, being just one).

I would be very interested in the thoughts of others on this, and perhaps the setting up of a LinkedIn group to deal with this, and in my view most powerful, elephant in the room.

  1. What is Culture? As with strategy there is no universally accepted definition, and neither should there be.

Yet, we keep talking about culture being “the elephant in the room.” No wonder we can’t identify it – we don’t know what it looks like.

Understanding culture is about researching the history of the organization since inception, asking who the heroes are, what at the folklores. It is about understanding how policies and procedures are formed. How do decision rights work, how is compensation allocated, who gets promoted, etc. Then the culture can be adapted as appropriate.

When I work with organization on creating a “strategy-aligned culture” I get them think about the type of strategy with which the culture must align. For example, if an organization is pursuing a strategy based on customer intimacy, then the defined behaviours, values, recruitment, training, and reward mechanisms, and so on, must be appropriate for the inculcation of customer-centricity, as should the structure, processes, information flows, and decision-rights. It holds true for a strategy based on operational excellence, product leadership, or whatever.

But a strategy-aligned culture is for the lifetime of the strategy and so will be adapted when the strategy changes. Do not set out to build a “strong culture.” Kodak had a very strong culture and simply could not adapt to a different world. For them, the elephant in the room became the dinosaur in the room.

  1. I write frequently on the idiocy of viewing Strategic Objectives and KPIs solely in isolation, as they work dynamically.

Take intangible assets, such as the acquired knowledge, skills and experience of employees, and the relationships with customers and suppliers (and between employees). Viewing them in isolation is dangerous as the value of an intangible asset:

  • Is influenced by its interaction with other intangible assets.
  • Is difficult to isolate the value of one asset
  • is determined by its impact on other variables.


So, of course we will have separate objectives and KPIs for Customer Engagement and Employee Engagement, for example (difficult of visualizing how value is created without doing so). But be more interested in how they influence each other – the basic theory of the Balanced Scorecard System. No one person, or function is solely responsible for either.

A few years back…Dr. David Norton explained to me how the Balanced Scorecard System would evolve going forward from being focused on Strategy Translation and Alignment to strategy-learning.

  1. A few years back, while I was a director at the global consultancy Palladium, Dr. David Norton explained to me how the Balanced Scorecard System would evolve going forward to help shift organizations from being strategy-focused to strategy-learning. Looking back, I am in even more agreement than I was then (which was near total). He explained five dimensions. Networked:

“Aligning networked organizations in a world that is increasingly boundary-less. Networks are both within the organization (and across functions and regions) as well as between organizations. Collaborative technology, supported by good governance and more empowered working, is critical to ensuring such networks are effective.”

The pandemic provided clues as to how this might work.

  1. Human Capital:

“Developing human capital capabilities in world economies increasingly based on the capabilities of employees (and that are part of the networks).”

A key observation here is that the “human capital” of an organization is connected to the network – partners, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. This requires a paradigm shift in our thinking.

  1. Shared Value:

“In a world filled with shared value, using the scorecard system to build partnerships to drive benefits for the commercial organization as well as society and communities (becoming good corporate citizens).”

“We have been talking about this for some time. I don’t think this just requires actions by organizations in isolation, but a global network, with enforceable laws and regulations.

Collaborative Balanced Scorecards can be useful here (I will post an article on this in due course).”

  1. Risk:

“In a world filled with risk, aligning risk with performance through creating risk dashboards that track the risks that impact each objective on the Strategy Map.”

My 2013 co-authored book: Risk-based Performance Management: Integrating strategy and risk management, provided a framework for doing this. It is a dereliction of duty not to see risk and strategy as two sides of the same coin.

  1. Analytics:

“In a data-rich analytic world, using the power of advanced data analytics to test the causal assumptions that underpin the strategy and as captured in the strategic objectives, KPIs, and initiatives.”

I strongly belief that analytics will become much more important in assessing performance than KPIs (although some will still be needed, of course). What happened, why it happened, what we can predict will happen based on the data – and what should we do about it.

36: “To use weighting or not,” on Strategic Objectives is a perennial debate in the Balanced Scorecard community. People take strong positions for or against. So do I, they should never be used. The reason—they make zero sense.


A Strategy Map describes the causal assumptions regarding the capabilities that work together to deliver success. Objectives within the Learning and Growth and Internal Process Perspectives enable successful outcomes within the objectives at the customer and financial (or stakeholder) level. If that is accepted, then where exactly do we place the weightings?


At first glance, it might seem logical to give the highest weightings to the financial objectives; after all, these are the ultimate measure of a commercial organization’s success. However, in keeping with the logic of the Balanced Scorecard system, these are simply the result of success within the other perspectives. Customer objectives are the outcomes of what happens within Learning and Growth and Internal Processes so, putting the highest weightings here is equally nonsensical.


Therefore, the conclusion might be that we should place the highest weightings on enabler perspectives, as this is how success is driven. But what precisely is the purpose of having great scores for the Learning and Growth or Internal Process objectives if the customers are leaving and the financials are nose-diving?


Of course, executing strategy is about prioritization, but weighting is not the way it is done. Prioritization should be through the resources that are committed to the designated strategic initiatives and strategic process improvements, as this is how performance is enhanced.


This is one reason why themes are so useful on a Strategy Map. If, for example, there’s a requirement to pay attention to the cost structure, then the bulk of the investments might go to initiatives and process improvements supporting an operational excellence theme. Conversely, if revenue generation is a priority, then the investments might be directed to an innovation theme.

37: In this the “Age of Uncertainty”, successfully implementing strategy is about keeping one eye on performance and the other on risk. One without the other is not enough. Conventional Balanced Scorecard systems only consider the performance view, with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) providing the evidence of success (or otherwise) of strategic objectives.


Some organizations will claim that they cater for risk through its inclusion on a Strategy Map—as a theme or an objective – or even as a separate perspective. However, although common in the early days of the scorecard, I agree with Dr. Robert Kaplan, who said to me that, “risk should not be on a Strategy Map at all, be that as a theme, perspective or objective.”

He explained that the Balanced Scorecard is about managing and delivering performance, not mitigating risk, and that risks impact every objective on the Strategy Map, both financial and non-financial. However, as a caveat, if the organization has a strategic need to develop risk management capabilities, then this might appear as an objective within the internal process perspective. This is very different from managing risks.

To manage risk effectively, we need a definition. “A key strategic risk is the possibility of an event or scenario (either internal or external) that inhibits or prevents an organization from achieving its strategic objectives.”

Note that a strategic risk event is a tangible occurrence. It is something that happens. Staff turnover is not a risk event, as turnover is an everyday reality of any business, although a defined loss of capability against a strategically critical skill might well be. A key risk event might be described as “the risk of a failure to achieve standards of processing accuracy caused by the loss of key staff resulting in the deployment of inexperienced staff.” Note that the strategic risk event is articulated as “the (key) risk of (what, where, when) . . . caused by (how) . . . resulting in . . . (impact).”

We recommend using a “Four Perspective Risk Map,” with Key Risk Events identified for each objective, alongside a Balanced Scorecard. This helps senior teams to answer the questions:

  • What level of risk are we taking?
  • What level of risk are we exposed to?
  • What are our main exposures?

 Just as KPIs track performance to Strategic Objectives via a scorecard, Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) monitor exposure to key risks on a “Risk Dashboard” (we prefer the term dashboard, simply to differentiate from the performance-focused scorecard).

38: Organizations make many mistakes when working with KPIs. Amongst the most common are:


  • A failure to understand the potential dangers of aggregating data. As well as hiding potentially damaging performance trends (hidden in the measures that are aggregated), they also might give a totally misleading view of performance: Simpson’s Paradox.


  • Not taking confidence levels and intervals into account leads to wasting time discussing statistically meaningless data. Best practice is to be 95% confident that the figure provide is correct to an error rate of two percentage points.


  • Simply comparing one data point with the one previous. Three or four data points are required, before a meaning view of performance can be made (which is why only measuring performance annually is of limited value).


  • Believing that the high-level KPI score is sufficient for analysis and reporting—it is not—and rigorous analysis of the data that underpins the KPI is important. Moreover, the I in KPI means indicator—not an absolute measure of performance.

Underpinning all of these is a failure to provide staff that regularly collect and report on KPIs basic training in the metrology—the science of measurement.

39: A Performance Target is not a forecast—they are different things and have different purposes.

 A target is what the organization would like to achieve, if all goes their way and it will typically be stretching, in that it usually represents a significant improvement from the present performance.

Conversely, a forecast is an honest assessment of likely future performance based on the most current data and information. The forecast should tell you whether you are on track to meet targets: it is a “health check” against targets, confirming their accuracy or providing an early warning signal of problems ahead.

Not appreciating the differences leads to significant dysfunctional behaviours—holds true for budgeting as well as strategy.

Applied to the Balanced Scorecard System, I once reviewed the scorecard of a telecommunications company where the Head of the Office of Strategy Management proudly pointed to all the green colours. Yet they were underperforming their competitors!

The fact was that their scorecard targets were tied to bonuses so, again as with the budget, managers fought for the easiest possible targets. Why wouldn’t they?

In reality, these scorecard targets were forecasts. As with the budget, a rational outcome of incentive-compensation being based on targeted performance, but equally, it might be the consequence of a toxic culture where it is “better to be dead than red.”

40: Cascading an organizational strategy, perhaps through a Balanced Scorecard System, is a tricky endeavour.


The deeper into the organization the scorecard is cascaded, the less meaningful the term strategy becomes. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve sat through (and even led) “Strategy awareness/alignment” sessions at departmental/team levels and witnessed eyes gradually glaze over and then people divert their gaze to that refuge of bored minds—the smartphone.

 At departmental/team levels I prefer to talk about the purpose of the group. What they want to achieve over the short and medium terms and then why and how. Focus is on the short and medium terms and makes little more than a cursory mention of the longer term or where the organization wants to be in five years. Few of the staff will relate to this timescale as they are focused on day-to-day operations—and please do not mention shareholder value as people at lower levels have no real influence over this and will not be enthused about making shareholders richer.

Once the department/team’s purpose is agreed, understood, aligned with that of the organization, and codified, it is important to quickly move to ensuring the interventions are in place (leadership support, HR, IT, etc.) to make it happen – and monitor progress.

The sad fact is that no matter what is discussed in team meetings/focus groups, in most organizations, participants will believe nothing they say will be listened to and that nothing will change.

41: An Interesting approach to displaying a Strategy Map which I have seen, is switching the order of the Balanced Scorecard Perspectives within a commercial organization (not uncommon in a not-for profit, of course).

Finance is at the base and Learning & Growth on top. The reason is simple:

In Strategy Review Meetings, where the agenda is tight and time is limited, it is common for the Learning & Growth Strategic Objectives (being at the base of the map), to get scant, if any, airtime. “Let’s come back to Learning & Growth later,” which then doesn’t happen.

As Professor Kaplan said, “Being at the base does not mean that Learning & Growth is the least important of the Perspectives – it provides the capabilities.

42:  Note that cause and effect still move from Learning & Growth to Finance, but the arrows (if used) point downwards and not upwards.

A further twist (which I now use as my preferred approach), is to display the Strategy Map horizontally (from Leaning & Growth to Finance) rather than vertically. This removes the tendency to see a Strategy Map through a hierarchical lens (from most to least important).

Moreover, I place the Strategic Ambition next to Finance (moving horizontally), as this shows the goal of the Strategy.

43: The shortcomings of the annual budgeting process are well known and generally accepted. Most notably:


  • Too lengthy (often starting in, say mid-2022 to set targets for the end of 2023—madness in many industries)
  • Out-of-date the very day it is published
  • Too detailed (with 100s of line items)
  • Inflexible (locks resources in for a year)

Perhaps the most damaging shortcoming is that it is a process of target negotiations, largely due to the link with annual bonuses. A key movement of this dysfunctional annual dance is when corporate sets a target (knowing it will be rejected as it is set higher than required) and sends it to unit managers, who come back with a revised target (less than they know they can achieve) and, eventually, a compromise is reached. An “exercise in minimization,” as Jack Welch described it.

The budgeting process and budget document also send confused messages to employees. Through one channel, employees are informed that they are empowered, trusted, and so on, and through another channel, micromanaged through detailed budgets (not much empowerment and trust here). Of course, the budget always wins.

It comes back to a simple question. “What is the most effective way to motivate better performance?” The answer is certainly not the annual budget. It never has been and is fast becoming a very dysfunctional approach to planning, management, and driving great performance in the Age of Uncertainty. It is now time to dance to a different tune.

44: In 2008 Doctors Kaplan and Norton released the book that introduced the concept of the Execution Premium Process (XPP™). With the goal of offering a complete strategy management solution.

However, for all its logic and strengths, the XPP has rarely (if ever) been deployed as a single strategy management framework. Rather, even when proudly displayed by organizations as their strategy management guide, only bits of the XPP are typically used. Most sequence straight from stage 3: Align the Organization (developing cascaded maps and scorecards) to stage 5: Monitor and Learn.

Yet, what is particularly powerful in the XPP is Stage 4 (Plan Operations). This is where there is a linkage between strategy and operations.

To link operations with strategy, Kaplan and Norton posed the question, “What business process improvements are most critical for executing the strategy?”

Note the words “most critical.”

This stage is not about linking all operations with the Strategy, but those operational processes that have a significant impact on the strategic processes, as identified in the internal process layer of the Strategy Map.

The criticality of improving strategic processes is precisely why Kaplan and Norton recommended that about 40% of objectives on the Strategy Map should be within the internal process layer. This is where work gets done and is the conduit to aligning operations.

However, the real work in executing the Strategy takes place as a phase between Stage 4 and 5, the Execution of Strategic Initiatives and improving/creating Strategic Processes. This Execution Phase rarely gets the attention it should when “using” the XPP, which means organizations often entirely miss the point of the framework.

45: Do not confuse the KPIs that appear on Balanced Scorecard Systems with the measures that appear on operational dashboards.

  • Strategic scorecards are not about detailed day-to-day activities but supporting future oriented objectives to get to somewhere that the organization hasn’t been before.
  • Operational dashboards are about checking that things are going right and, if not, then doing something about it. It is near real-time checking and operational monitoring.

Operational dashboards ensure control and can be effective tools for driving performance improvement.

The linkage to strategy is when operational measures are derived through explicit decomposition of strategic objectives within the internal process perspective, so to identify the operational drivers.

Do not populate cascaded function/department Balanced Scorecards with operational measures. They do not belong there.

47: This is the “Age of Resilience,” stated Lord William Hague in a Times article yesterday. He was stating that nations need to prepare plans for an unknown future and large organizations must rethink their global sourcing and supply-chain models.

In the same Times edition, an Oxford University Professor of Immunology, stated that the largescale movement of people caused by globalization, alongside our further environmental encroachment means that another Covid-like pandemic is likely – only next time it might be a much more lethal virus.

Both statements resonate with my theory of Adaptive Strategy Management in the Age of Uncertainty. We cannot predict with a great deal of certainty what the future holds, at global, national, or industry-specific levels.

A detailed long-term Strategic Plan must be consigned to the dustbin of history – it is the tool of dinosaurs.

But Adaptive Strategy Management means we need the capabilities to not just tweak Strategies, but quickly adapt organizations structures, culture and customer, people, and supplier management practices, among other requirements.

We are at the dawn of the biggest transformation of management thinking and practices in over a century. Resistance will be strong, but change will take place. Just as Homo Sapiens eventually rendered the Neanderthals obsolete – Homo Sapiens were simply more adaptive.

We are at the dawn of the biggest transformation of management thinking and practices in over a century. Resistance will be strong, but change will take place. Just as Homo Sapiens eventually rendered the Neanderthals obsolete – Homo Sapiens were simply more adaptive.

47: This is the “Age of Resilience,” stated Lord William Hague in a Times article yesterday. He was stating that nations need to prepare plans for an unknown future and large organizations must rethink their global sourcing and supply-chain models.

In the same Times edition, an Oxford University Professor of Immunology, stated that the largescale movement of people caused by globalization, alongside our further environmental encroachment means that another Covid-like pandemic is likely – only next time it might be a much more lethal virus.

Both statements resonate with my theory of Adaptive Strategy Management in the Age of Uncertainty. We cannot predict with a great deal of certainty what the future holds, at global, national, or industry-specific levels.

A detailed long-term Strategic Plan must be consigned to the dustbin of history – it is the tool of dinosaurs.

But Adaptive Strategy Management means we need the capabilities to not just tweak Strategies, but quickly adapt organizations structures, culture and customer, people, and supplier management practices, among other requirements.

We are at the dawn of the biggest transformation of management thinking and practices in over a century. Resistance will be strong, but change will take place. Just as Homo Sapiens eventually rendered the Neanderthals obsolete – Homo Sapiens were simply more adaptive.

48: There are three components to my theory of Adaptive Strategy Management in the Age of Uncertainty:


 Organizations need the capabilities (and willing mindset) to adapt Strategies as they are being implemented. This requires an understanding that adapting Strategies also means adapting organizational structures, processes, culture, etc.

Strategy Management

 Organizations must stop viewing Strategy as a linear, sequential process of formulating the Strategy, executing, and doing an annual refresh based on the previous year’s learning. Strategy must be viewed as holistic and dynamic. Strategies can be formulated and reformulated at any time, and the execution requirements and plans must be an integral part of formulation (not an afterthought).

Strategic learning must be an ongoing process with quarterly reviews held to analyse the findings and respond appropriately.

Indeed, I am moving away from focusing on fixed long-term Strategic Plans, to more of a Rolling Strategic Planning process and mindset. Deeper drills for formulation can take place at any time

Age of Uncertainty

 We are living a Walt Disney movie script if we believe that the globalized, fully connected world in which we now live that we can predict with a high degree of certainty, what next year looks like – never mind over the timeframe of a, say, five-year strategy. Detailed long-term Strategic Plans make zero sense these days and will become increasingly obsolete. And we must consider Strategic Risk alongside performance and targets.

I am developing a comprehensive methodology to support my theories. But with a clear understanding that the methodology must be adaptive, according to new learnings and environmental changes.

49: The percentage of employees that are “not engaged” at work has remained stubbornly high since Gallup fist began its annual Employee Engagement Survey. As of 2022, only 9% of employees are categories as thriving and engaged” at work, while the majority (57%) of are “not engaged and not thriving.

This despite the billions of dollars we spend on Employee Engagement programs each year. Why is this?

Simply, we are treating symptoms, not the problem. To cure “disengagement,” organizations must transform their organizational structures (the manager is the manager because they know best!), working practices, decision-rights, incentive-compensation systems, and so on.

Organizations must also finally jettison the frankly ridiculous Employee Appraisal process – does this ever motivate employees and improve performance?
So, it is about transforming conventional approaches to Organizational Design and People Management Practices (culture, of you will).

Hiring yet another consulting firm to do yet another Employee Engagement, just ain’t going to fix the problems.

I haven’t even mentioned the appalling levels of Customer Engagement

50: It is strongly recommended that Advanced Data Analytics should be a prerequisite for a Strategy Office (or as I prefer, a Transformation Office) to be effective in today’s world.

The ability to analyse and make sense of what we call Big Data is an extension of the KPIs we use to monitor strategic performance and identify required initiatives or process improvements.

Advanced Data Analytics is enabling organizations to convert their performance data into relevant information and knowledge, allowing management teams to hold richer and more informed performance conversations and make more evidence-based decisions.

Organizations can pinpoint the specific components of a KPI that really make a difference and ensure that actions and initiatives are driving performance improvement against that element.

Based on good Data Analytics, Transformation Officers can better advise management teams that, “this is where you really need to focus your attention right now.”

But there’s a caveat. In applying Advanced Data Analytics, organization must avoid the mistakes made with KPIs.

Leaders assumed the KPIs would provide all the answers. Find the “right” KPIs and all problems are solved. Nope! Neither will answers automatically come out of Advanced Data Analytics.

Both are powerful aids for decision making. They do not, and cannot, make the decisions. And both might, and often will, provide misleading information.

As with KPIs, value will only be secured when the basics of how analytics work is understood. Organizations are awash with KPIs but rarely invest in providing basic training in how measures work. Care should be taken to ensure the same mistakes aren’t made with regard to data analytics.

51: The Quarterly Strategy Review is typically an opportunity wasted.

Often it is a lengthy discussion about the KPI colours – and therefore the focus is squarely on the performance of “red” KPIs.

Such events feel more like a “name and shame,” show-trial than a forum for strategic conversations. Few leadership teams think about the overall performance of the Balanced Scorecard System (which is much more than the measures).

Coding Colour coding is a dumb idea. No matter how hard we try to persuade otherwise, most people want to avoid being red. In the workplace, red is a symbol of poor performance and therefore possible punishment and even termination. Avoid at all costs.

And avoid people do—from fighting for easier targets or by manipulating the data. This problem is further compounded by the fact that accountability is usually assigned according to functions, so the objective is perceived as a reflection of the performance of that function and by implication the ability of the manager.

I was once told by a functional head that he would not accept a KPI target because he was worried it might be red, and if so, he’d be fired due to his function under-performing. Not an uncommon response.

So, what’s the alternative? As with most things, this is more about a mindset shift away from silo-based thinking. the very premise of cause and effect makes nonsense of assigning individual accountability. Objectives (and their supporting KPIs and oftentimes Strategic Initiatives) are interdependent. No one objective delivers value in isolation and cannot be achieved without the input of others. A red or green colour cannot be the result of a single person’s/function’s efforts.

52: Periodically, when preparing the report for the Quarterly Strategy Review meeting, print these words from Albert Einstein on the front cover.

“Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.”

A gentle reminder that the meeting should be a conversation on performance and not a discussion on KPIs, which are simply an input into the discussion.

53: Absolutely useless.”  “I was on the phone for over an hour, just to get through to them.”
 Two comments I received yesterday about the painful experience of connecting to a major service provider – now that customer relationships have been moved to remote “contact centres.” Very common comments.
 Most organizations stress how “customer-focused” they are. My view, from a UK perspective at least, is that organizations are much less customer-focused than they were 20 years ago.
I recall the pleasant days of walking into a bank and quickly dealing with an issue. Now it’s “Your call is important to us, but we are experiencing an unusual hight demand and we will answer as soon as an operator is available.” If it’s unusually high, why do I get the message every time I ring the bank?
 Organizations should be honest with customers and say that they are focused on minimizing costs and not enhancing the customer experience.
 And I’m tired of reading Strategic Plans and other materials that talk about “our amazing team.” 
 Treat customers and employees (and indeed all partners) as adults. Can’t be that difficult.

54: In the Age of Uncertainty, there’s a critical leadership balancing act between having a strong Strategic Vision for the organization, while accepting that there might be a need to commit to a new course of action when the situation warrants it.
 As stated in research by the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, Strategy Leaders should  “have a well-defined idea of where their organizations need to go, even if they do not know exactly how to get there.”
 When new information (whether from outside the organization or inside) triggers a leader to change their mind, it should be seen as a strength and not a weakness.
 As the 2017 research found. “Agile leaders must be open, willing to learn, and seek input from both inside and outside their organizations.
 Moreover, they also need to trust others who know more than they do. Put another way, knowing what you don’t know is as important as knowing what you do know.
 Recent global events have made it very clear is that there is much that we don’t know – or can predict with any high degree of certainty.
 Humans typically don’t feel comfortable accepting and dealing with such uncertainly. But acknowledging this as a fact and building mechanisms for dealing with sudden and unexpected change withing the context of a strong Strategic Vision is fast becoming the foundation stone of successful Strategy Management.

55: In the Age of Uncertainty, the organizations that claim and maintain a competitive advantage will be those that have one eye looking at the internal world and one looking at the external—and utilizing, as an everyday part of their work, the power of Advanced Data Analytics to help spot sudden or emerging market/customer trends and adapting the internal organizational working approaches as appropriate.
This has significant implications for all aspects of how organizations get work done and will hugely impact the Strategy Management process, which is why being Adaptive will become increasingly vital for maintaining a competitive edge.
Scheduled Strategy Review Meetings will still take place and for good governance reasons but will increasingly become more fluid and dynamic.
 The Annual Strategy Refresh will become less important and, for many companies, will simply disappear due to the pressures of synchronizing the internal and external rates of change.

56: “We must be smart, innovative and realize that standing still is moving backwards,” said a retail CEO in the UK’s Guardian newspaper when asked about the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis.

I agree.

We will all have our own definitions of smart. To me, it means fundamentally rethinking how we structure organization and do work.

Innovation does not happen in structured workshops. It’s a mindset thing. I get my best ideas, not when sat in front of a computer but when relaxing with friends – the ideas just pop into my head, seemingly from nowhere. Also, to a large extent it’s about decision-rights, hierarchical practices, etc (culture, if you will. Although I believe we need a more useful term than culture – I will post about this separately).

And standing still is moving backwards. From my experience, an organization is at its most vulnerable when it reaches a stage of consistent success – they forget what got them there in the first place and believe they are unassailable. Big mistake.

In the Age of Uncertainty, we must keep thinking that we need to change, and acting when it becomes clear we should – regardless of how successful we are currently.

57: What is Strategy-Aligned Leadership? Consider two examples. Steve Jobs and Winston Churchill.

Steve Jobs Was a phenomenally successful leader of Apple. But he was forced out by the same organization in 1985.

Jobs was out for failing to deliver financial results, among other reasons.

Jobs’ leadership style was appropriate for an organization reshaping the global communications landscape but inappropriate for how the then 1985 board viewed the industrial context of Apple.

Consider Sir Winston Churchill. Certainly, another that is considered a great leader. His inspiring and rousing speeches (“we shall fight on the beaches,” etc.) supporting a two-part strategy (make Great Britain a “fortress,” before doing much actual fighting and then bringing the USA into the affray) were simply brilliant.

Although notoriously difficult to work with, he had the right leadership style to deliver to his Strategy.

But, in peacetime Britain, he was considered an ineffective leader. He was too aggressive and did not reflect the “calm and passive spirit” that a peacetime leader should have. He belonged in a war environment not peacetime.

So, to the question, “what is strategy aligned leadership?” What do we learn from these two examples? Leadership is, first and foremost, contextual. Different strategies require different leadership styles.


There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

58: Although they can be powerful, I find Corporate Values a near constant irritant.

I recall sitting through a presentation on how one company was implementing a set of corporate values.

The values were sensible (usual suspects—customer-focused, innovative, trust and empower) and the behaviours well described (and on a very nice poster, too).

I knew this company very well, so after the presentation I asked the presenter how they were going to make the values come alive? The expected answers were forthcoming: awareness sessions for all staff, visual displays, etc.

Based on my prior knowledge of this firm, I asked, “Specifically about the trust and empower value, I assume you are now going to radically overhaul the rule by which lower-level managers cannot spend any money without signoff from a senior manager?” After a pause, the presenter said there were no plans to alter this.

Next question, “So I assume you are going to throw out the stupid policy that if an employee takes a day off sick then they need a written note from a Doctor to prove it?” After a longer, and more embarrassed, pause, he admitted there were no plans to change this either.

Finally, I asked if they intended to abolish the clocking in and out system (which everyone knew was initiated due to management’s lack of trust in staff). Again…no plans.

The next question asked how exactly the organization would make the trust and empower value a reality? He said it was all about a mind-set. I told him that such a mind-set would not materialize without massive change to decision-rights, employee policies, and so on.

As this clearly was not going to happen, the whole values exercise proved a complete, and expensive, waste of time, because the organization’s style of management was based on reinforcing a lack of trust. Without trust, there can be no empowerment. There was one positive outcome of this values program – all employees got a nice coffee cup with the values listed.

59: Most organizations strive for “employee loyalty.”  I argue that this is a fundamental error, although something of a holy grail for HR Functions.

We should not expect staff to remain with the organization long-term, but rather create the environment where they learn and so grow their own market-value in exchange for contributing their best in the workplace and therefore to the enterprise.

In his 2016 book Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, Sydney Finkelstein observed that, “Not only do great bosses not fear people coming and going in their organizations, they actually embrace it…companies are being confronted with a generational mind-set shift that values learning and engagement much more than job security. In this world, trying to optimize around talent retention can hurt more than it helps.”

Indeed “Talent Management” should be partly about realizing that employees often just reach the end of the road regarding the value they get from the organization and so begin to disengage.

When an individual feels they have plateaued and might benefit from another job, this should be managed proactively by managers and HR and thus avoid employees surreptitiously looking for new jobs, disengaging and then, when alternative employment is secured, resigning.

Keep in mind that the goal should be that when an employee leaves the organization, they still feel a sense of “loyalty” to the organization and the brand.

These days, it is not uncommon for candidates to approach ex-employees (through LinkedIn, etc.) to gain a reference for the company to which they are applying. A great recommendation from an ex-employee is a powerful recruiting tool.

60: I read an article yesterday that stated that in the world in which we now live (the Age of Uncertainty) organizations are realizing the importance of co-opetition (through which competitors cooperate to solve problems, solve technological issues, and provide common solutions in new markets, etc.).

This hardly a new concept. I recall writing about it as far back as 1994.

As much as anything this “realization” emphasizes the need to fundamentally change the mindsets of organizations – both internally and externally with stakeholders and even fierce competitors.

We must be careful that co-opetition doesn’t surreptitiously lead to new forms of monopolies, but, if regulated carefully could play a part in revolutionizing the customer experience.


61: Despite many other excellent candidates (the annual budgeting process being a strong contender), perhaps the most ridiculous staple of organizational management is the annual employee appraisal process.

Does anybody get motivated by the appraisal process? I’ve seen highly intelligent and gifted employees emerge from their appraisal in tears!! Often worsened by a reduced bonus.

Dr. Deming commented that, “The idea of a merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good. The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise.”

The Total Quality guru argued that the appraisal system encouraged short-term performance at the expense of long-term planning, discouraged teamwork, and created a system whereby to get a promotion (or a pay rise) you need a short-term hit. He concluded that the appraisal system led to employees living in fear and being in constant competition with each other.

Deming stated that the vast majority of the problems within an organization are the responsibility of management, we get to see a fundamental failure of the appraisal system – it’s the wrong way around!!

So, what’s the alternative? Technology enables a constant two-way conversation between managers and their reports, and between staff. And if a manager’s job is to manage performance – why do they need an annual sit-down to discuss performance. What do they do each day?

And stop paying individual bonuses. Make them team-based or better still, standardized organization-wide, based on continually communicated and transparent performance targets – and that are not just financial.

62: “UK Customer complaints at an all-time high,” the topic of a report on the BBC News this morning. Why is this?

The first obvious question was “are we becoming a more complaining nation?” To a small extent yes, but this is a Western Experience. The primary reason? Despite the massive benefits – technology.

For many organizations, dealing with customers is moving either online or telephone-based, Customers take forever to get through to a representative and complaints are then moved between departments (more waiting time). Many older customers are not comfortable with online services.

Furthermore, complaints are rarely resolved in one call, or letter. Customer frustration is also rising rapidly.

As stressed in the news interview, organizations are not investing in customer service (despite the nice words written in Strategic Plans, etc.) Increasingly, short-term financial gains are the priority.

Most organizations have not yet learnt that customer service begins with understanding the customer’s requirements – it is about the customer experience, not the “cost” of the service. Some do. The research found that those that scored the highest on resolving customer complaints were transparent, flexible, and honest (i.e., treating customers as adults).

Also, technology is making it crystal clear that the conventional silo-based approach to doing work no longer works.

In the Age of Uncertainty, if organizations believe that their dominant position allows them the luxury of customer complacency then they should expect disruption – that is a certainty, it is when that is uncertain.

If these things were so large, how come everyone missed them?”

63: If these things were so large, how come everyone missed them?”, the UK’s Queen asked on a visit to the London School of Economics during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

The answer she received was, “At every stage, someone was relying on somebody else, and everyone thought they were doing the right thing.”

The same question was asked about Covid 19 and is being posed now, regarding the fuel and cost of living crises and spiralling inflation and interest rates, etc.

The same answer will likely be forthcoming.

Although there are significant challenges of predicting the future with any high degree of certainty, it is not an excuse for hubris and a lack of preparation for potentially catastrophic scenarios.

With regard how we think about Strategic Management, hubris still seems a dominant, if unrecognized, characteristic, and we need to weave in myriad scenarios in how we write Strategic Plans and manage implementation.”


64: We speak a lot about “Organizational” Sense of Purpose, but this also exists at the team level.

Here we are considering how the team interacts with the organization, other teams, and the individuals within the team, and how the enterprise engages team members in the execution of the strategy.

A few years back I was involved in a global research study by the consultancy Palladium (for whom I was Director, Research and Intellectual Property).

The research found that eighty-seven per cent of respondents believed that people within their organization fail to cooperate, support, and care for one another. Almost three out of four experience feelings of anxiety or distress that did not subside rapidly after work problems or disputes are resolved.

This is alarming in many ways, but particularly in light of the fact that, according to Palladium’s research, cooperative teams make organizations 3.7 times more likely to be among the top performers of their industry.

Organizations need to be more creative and holistic in how they think about how the enterprise engages with teams (more empowerment is a good place to start) and how teams work together in pursuit of organizational goals.

And don’t lose sight of the fact that teams are made up of individuals. So, good governance is required to mitigate and potential for bullying or other unacceptable behaviours.


65: There are myriad issues with working with KPIs. In addition to organizations being overly obsessed with measurement and without a basic of understanding on how KPIs work, there are issues around knowing why the KPI is important, how to collect data, etc.

A simple, but very useful, tool that I deploy is a KPI Card. This is a short document that captures key information on the KPI, including:

KPI Description: A brief description of why this KPI is strategically important.

KPI Interdependencies: Which other KPI/KPIs is/are dependent on this KPI for its delivery.

The Data Collection Method: How the data will be collected (e.g., online survey, drawn from financial/accounting system)

The Formula/Scale/Assessment Method: How performance levels will be determined. This can be qualitative, in which case the assessment criteria need to be identified, or it can be numerical or using a scale, in which case the formula or scales with categories need to be identified.

Data Collection Cycle: How frequently is the data for this indicator collected?

What Positive Behaviours should this KPI Trigger: Describe any positive behavioural change that this KPI should trigger.  What Negative Behaviours Might this KPI Trigger: Describe how this indicator could influence the wrong behaviours or how people could cheat on this KPI.

The Primary Audience for this KPI: Name the primary audience for this KPI, Why do they need this information, What will they do with this information.

Communication Channels: Describe the channels that will be used to report this KPI – Quarterly internal or external reports, Online, etc.


A simple tool but can resolve many headaches and arguments.

66: KPIs are expected to drive positive behaviours – but often lead to unexpected negative outcomes. Two true stories – one amusing, one tragic that prove the point.

Rats were overrunning a City in India. But the City also had millions of very poor people. 

The City Government had a KPI on “the number of complaints from citizens about rat infestation.”  The management team came up with a great idea to reduce complaints. Financially incentivise poor people to kill and deliver X number of rats.

As expected, the rat population began to decrease rapidly as poor people eagerly went rant hunting.

Then suddenly complaints began to rise steeply Why was that?

People figured that rats breed very quickly, so breed rats and kill – while maintaining a constant supply.

An amusing story. The next one isn’t.

A Pizza chain in the US promised delivery within X minutes in areas close to an outlet.

One day an outlet had an issue with its ovens. In desperation, the manager told a delivery boy to go quickly on his motorcycle to make deliveries.

Speeding on the road he crashed – and died.

There are many examples of negative outcomes.

We all know about factory managers who change how they report accidents to hit a new target. The target is reached, but accidents haven’t actually reduced.

I have also seen examples of managers surreptitiously changing KPI descriptions (if they exist) to hit a target, without making any difference to performance levels.

On one occasion an organization had a major issue with paying suppliers on time, leading to many complaints and cancelled relationships. So, the organization put in place a KPI of “days to pay suppliers.” They hit the KPI target.

I ran a session with key suppliers, and they all said that nothing had changed. I audited the KPI. Originally it was simply, “suppliers must be paid within X days.” The Finance Manager reworded it to “suppliers must be paid within X days from final invoice sign off.” Their original problem was the result of an overly bureaucratic and so lengthy sign-off process – which had not been addressed.

So, when choosing KPIs, don’t just think, “that’s a sensible KPI, let’s introduce.” Make sure to brainstorm potential negative behaviours and ensure mitigations are in place. Also, regularly audit KPIs.

Be especially careful when the KPI is linked to bonuses. In such cases negative outcomes can be accompanies by very worrying dysfunctional behaviours – such as bullying or sacrificing customer service in one area to hit a KPI target in another.


67: I repeatedly stress that we now live in An Age of Uncertainty. Organizations, and people generally, are struggling to grasp this new reality – or are simply unwilling (or frightened) to deal with the unknown.

Think about where we are right now. Globally, recent food crises have been driven by persistent conflict, pre-existing and COVID-19-related economic shocks and weather extremes.

Sri Lanka is near revolution as people rebel against rampant inflation and struggles to import food, fuel and medicine amid the country’s worst economic crisis in 70 years.

Last week, Andrew Bailey, the Governor of the Bank of England, said that Britain was facing “apocalyptic” levels of food price inflation – along with the other issues faced by the Sri Lanka and most other countries.

What hits the world next is anyone’s guess.

When I speak of my framework and methodology for Adaptive Strategy Management in the Age of Uncertainty (see I stress that is less about the component steps, and more about a massive transformation of organizational mindsets.

No matter what frameworks or methodologies we design, they won’t make any difference if we don’t fundamentally change mindsets.

In the Strategy world, we need brave souls to step out of the known and embrace the exciting potential of the unknown – consultancies offering fancy looking PowerPoint presentations and laminated Strategic Plans don’t cut it anymore.

68: A fascinating comment by Karl Walter Keirstead on one of my posts, which has got me thinking. Here’s his comment in full.

“What I find perplexing in the Age of Uncertainty is that many organizations cannot be sure what their products/services of tomorrow are going to be, who their customers are going to be, what technologies the organizations are going to use and how.

It seems to follow that one central focus of the corporation needs to be “”current” vs “to be” and, for this, it one needs to maintain a dual focus on internal ops and external trends and use an adaptive approach to maintaining a portfolio of funded problems/opportunities.

How do you build up an inventory of KPIs under this scenario?”

What a great question. I haven’t previously thought about this. But as a historical comparison, I am sure customers would have scored horse and carriage providers highly (all green on the scorecard!) just before the automobile made the product obsolete. Sure Kodak was the same re film before it became possible to take photographs on a phone.

So, what does this mean regarding how we think about appropriate KPIs. How exactly do we build KPIs to take the unknown into account?

Right now, I don’t have an answer, but would be very interested in the views of others.

69: Networked Balanced Scorecard Systems offer a powerful solution to the complex challenges the world is facing (either locally or globally), such as improving the quality of life in economically disadvantaged communities, dealing with climate change, battling a pandemic, etc.

Such networks bring together distinct organizations and groups of people to deliver collective outcomes, while also achieving the goals of each individual network member.

Networked organizations vary widely depending upon their collective goals. They might consist of not-for profit organizations, private sector organizations, or a combination of both.

A Networked Balanced Scorecard System aligns the disparate network members around a common Strategy to which they all contribute and create a platform through which partners can significantly improve collaboration and coordination and thus heighten the likelihood of achieving common goals. Partners create a high-level system to understand the big picture and individual systems to focus on the objectives, etc., to which network members can best contribute – akin to devolved Corporate Balanced Scorecard Systems.

Making Networked Balanced Scorecard Systems publicly accessible (via websites, social media, etc.,), also goes some way to communication what is being done to tackle societal issues and provides simple mechanisms for public contributions (ideas, for instance) to solving the challenges.

70: There is perhaps no greater challenge in the Age of Uncertainty than climate change. Arguments rage between the believers and the non-believers. Some see it as an existential threat to humanity, others that it is simply part of the natural climatic cycle of the earth.

For organizations, climate change creates many risks and has potentially significant economic consequences.

I am not going to comment on my views on climate change. But from a risk management perspective, there is enough of a threat to demonstrate that we should put in place mitigations for either local, regional, or global events. What are the financial risks of X, X or X, the operational risks, supply chain risks, etc?

Every organization should have a climate risk theme within their strategic risk plans.

Keep in mind that mitigations are to manage a risk that might emerge – not definitely will.

The risk of climate change is not something to dismiss because that contradicts your own beliefs. That is simply very poor leadership.

71: Amazed that I still see posts that says the only way increase profit is by reducing cost.

Cost containment is a strategic priority for organizations that compete primarily through operational excellence.

Motorola was the Six Sigma poster child. Saved billions. Wasn’t much use when competitors developed much smarter products. In 1998, Motorola was overtaken by Nokia as the world’s biggest seller of mobile phone handsets. And what happened to Nokia?

It’s true that Apple’s iPhone—released in 2007—redefined the smartphone, which had been pioneered years before by Nokia, Palm, BlackBerry, and others. But Apple didn’t destroy Nokia. The Finnish company had many years to reinvent itself, and simply never did.

As for BlackBerry. In 2016 it dominated the mobile phone marker was once Canada’s most valuable company and a global force in tech. As of January 2022, it effectively ended in mobile phone service. As one non-Blackberry executive stated – Blackberry leadership team were not idiots, but they acted like idiots.

Blackberry has not totally reinvented itself.

Whether the primary competitive strategic thrust is operational excellence. Customer intimacy, product leadership or whatever, organizations need to be constantly monitoring the external world – changes in customer preferences, customer behaviours, potentially disruptive innovators, etc.

Taking a blinkered view on cost leadership or the customer experience is not enough to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage.

Complacency and hubris are never clever ways to think and behave.

72: A post today simply stated, “A Plan is not Strategy”.

It seemed such an obvious statement that I wondered “why even post this?”

Then I got thinking. I assume that by “a plan” we mean a Strategic Plan. So, what does Strategic Planning actually mean?

As with everything to do with Strategy, there isn’t any universally accepted definition.

On Wikipedia, it says: “Strategic Planning is an organization‘s process of defining its strategy or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to attain strategic goals.”

Wikipedia highlights that Strategic Planning should not be confused with Strategic Thinking. I have no idea how to define a Strategy without Strategic Thinking. But never mind.

Another definition I read (just randomly choosing one from the millions on offer) “The art of formulating business strategies, implementing them, and evaluating their impact based on organizational objectives.”(CFI Team).

In my Adaptive Strategy Management In The Age of Uncertainty Framework, |I don’t use the term Strategic Planning, as in my view planning is an ongoing process of Formulation, Execution and Learning. CFI’s definition is along these lines.

But, and this is just a germ of an idea that is starting to infect me, I am beginning to believe that the very terms Strategy and Strategy Management are no longer appropriate. Just don’t feel right anymore.

We at the beginning of what will be the biggest transformation in management thinking for over a century. Nothing is sacred, not even the term Strategy.

73: I post frequently on how KPIs can inadvertently drive dysfunctional behaviour.

I regularly visit a pub – an outlet of a very well-known and successful national chain.

They have staff shortages who have to do bar service, serve food and now do table service. The staff are rushed off their feet and getting stressed (apparently true in other chain outlets in the area)

I noticed that the staff kept glancing at a video behind the bar. This is where they get alerts for table service, When they do, they immediately prioritise the order and deliver. So, someone who has been standing at the bar for 10 minutes has to wait.

Transpires that the pubs are measured on their performance to table service delivery times.

So, of course staff prioritise these orders – much to the annoyance of bar customers. Not unusual outcome of poorly thought-out performance measures,

I emailed the company (so these days I expect a reply in about three months’ time) explaining this. I also told them that they are not structured for the way they are now offering customer service.

Moreover, I explained that they have become highly successful due to a very clever customer value proposition. They now seem to be forgetting what that is – organizations often forget what made them good in the first place.

Also, an extremely dangerous place for organizations to reach is when it has become consistently successful. Many famous organizations have learnt that to their cost.

Strategy Management must be thought of alongside structure, operations, culture, digital platforms, etc. It must constantly synchronise with external movements.

74: Transforming Strategy Management must not be done in isolation. It should be integrated with the broader ecosystem of how organizations function and think,

Strategy Management must be thought of alongside structure, operations, culture, digital platforms, etc. It must constantly synchronise with external movements.

The issue is that organizations unwitting adhere the dysfunctional silo-based thinking of Frederick W, Taylor, It is a “process” to be viewed and managed through a siloed mindset. It is a standalone process and strategists think, execution managers do – doesn’t work.

This belief is central to my Adaptive Strategy Management In the Age of Uncertainty Framework and Methodology and why I am growing frustrated with the very term Strategy Management.

75: My Adaptive Strategy Management In the Age of Uncertainty framework comprises five stages and three underlying capabilities.
 But increasingly I am less focused on Strategy Management as an isolated process and more on a systematic and all-encompassing transformation of the organizational ecosystem. Strategy Management is the core of this system.
 It will be critical to underpin the evolving management of the ecosystem with an excellent Business Architecture platform. This will be the glue that keeps the component parts of the system working in harmony.
As Whynde Kuehn says in her article: Bridging Strategy & Execution: A New Way Forward:
 “Business architecture serves as an organization’s business blueprint to translate and activate business strategies. It also provides the scaffolding that connects all ideas and teams together from end to end, including strategy, experience, architecture (e.g., capabilities, value streams, business units, stakeholders, products), initiatives, and solutions, and ensures ongoing strategic alignment.”
 Exploiting the unlimited potential of technology with the organizational changes required to succeed today’, might finally move us on from the shackles of the thinking of Frederick W. Taylor and others. Not that Taylor’s thinking – described in his 1911 book, “The Principles of Scientific Management was not without its merit. Peter Drucker said as far back as 1974 that:
 “Frederick W. Taylor was the first man in recorded history who deemed work deserving of systematic observation and study. On Taylor’s ‘scientific management’ rests, above all, the tremendous surge of affluence in the last seventy-five years, however. not much has been added to them since…”
 Fifty years on from Drucker’s comments we are still tied to Taylor’s core principles of:
 – Using scientific methods to determine and standardize the one best way of doing a job.
– A clear division of tasks and responsibilities.
– High pay for high-performing employees.
– A hierarchy of authority and strict surveillance of employees.
 Taylor’s principles were designed to fully exploit the then newly developed industrial capabilities and were introduced at a time when education levels for most was basic at best.
 We now have very well-educated employees, for whom the Principles of Taylor are essentially anathematic.
 Using Business Architecture principles to underpin the required organizational mindset shifts (which will be far-reaching) might well usher in an organizational transformation as impactful as Taylor, 

 But it will look very different.

76: As I post my series of 100 thoughts on Adaptive Strategy Management In the Age of Uncertainty, I have been exposed to a lot of excellent thinking from others working in the Strategy Management space.

There is a fast-growing awareness that the conventional approaches to Strategy Management are no longer fit-for-purpose (if they ever were!) and that a fundamental transformation is required. But what has struck me most profoundly is the realization that at its core this is not a problem with Strategy Management, but the whole way the organizational ecosystem operates, thinks, and relates with the externa environment.

So just to put this out there, perhaps we should think about a way to collaborate, to forge a new way of thinking, while knowing it will never be a one-size-fits-all solution, but more a foundation for changing thinking patterns. Adaptive thinking if you will.

A solid piece of research would be a good place to start. I was fortunate in receiving extensive personal coaching from Professor Kaplan, who taught me the action research approach he deployed when developing both Activity Based Costing and the Balanced Scorecard.

I would recommend a similar approach. If anybody is interested in discussing this further, let me know.

77: I post frequently about how in this the Age of Uncertainty, we cannot predict with any high degree of certainty what will happen in the future – and that this has a massive impact on how we think about Strategy. I realized today that this is the wrong way to think. Strategy Management has nothing to do with making predictions. Strategy is a hypothesis. “

A hypothesis (plural: hypotheses), in a scientific context, is a testable statement about the relationship between two or more variables or a proposed explanation for some observed phenomenon.” This has nothing to do with making a prediction. From a Strategy Management viewpoint, strategy is a set of assumptions, which must be verified (or not) in execution.

Organizations would do well to fully comprehend the difference between a hypothesis and a prediction. Inspired by a comment by Mihai Ionescu.


78:  A challenging conundrum with Strategy Management is being able to visualize the component parts (formulation, execution, learning) holistically and dynamically, while also recognizing that a disciplined sequential process is required – at least at the beginning.

Take the Balanced Scorecard System as an example. The power of the System is in viewing it holistically and dynamically, and constantly learning from the interaction between Objectives, KPIs and Initiatives, and whether it is, or is not, verifying the assumptions that underpin the Strategy,

However, on a Balanced Scorecard project I am strict in a disciplined step-by-step approach. While completing the Strategic Change Agenda, I will not allow questions on Strategic Objectives. Likewise, there won’t be any conversations on KPs while completing the Strategy Map and the accompanying Objective Statements – and no discussion on Strategic Initiatives when selecting KPIs,

Once done, the mindset switches to viewing the System holistically and dynamically. As with much in life, it is important to hold seemingly conflicting thoughts in your head at the same time, not seeing contradictions and still functioning effectively. A tricky balancing act.


79: Global fuel and cost-of-living crises. Global Warming and, of course the recent pandemic. Proof positive of just how globally connected and interdependent economies and nations have become. No one country can solve these issues in isolation.

Government must become much better at shaping the required mechanisms for global coherent and cogent strategies to be formulated and implemented. It is easy for us to blame our own Governments when times get tough, but there’s a limit to what they can do with regard effective interventions that are global in nature.

The concept of co-opetition, where competitors work together to solve common problems or shape solutions, is something I have posted on previously.

We need to be doing this at both Governmental and Organizational levels and with better collaboration between both groups. Strategy, at Governmental or Organizational levels can no longer be viewed through a single lens of – here’s our set of issues and goals and this is what we will do insolation to resolve the issues and reach the goals.

We must become much smarter, inclusive, and collaborative in shaping and implementing strategies. If we don’t do this at the Governmental level, we might be on the brink of massive social disruption. This will be devastating at the Organizational level. As one British politician once said, “If we don’t give them reform, they will give us revolution.” We need to ponder what that means in this the Age of Uncertainty.


…a leader changing a position on a policy is routinely derided. I find this odd and outdated. In today’s world …a leader requires a strong vision and a clear Strategy for its achievement. However, they also require the courage to change the execution plan based on learning and external change.

81: The battle for the leadership of the Conservative Party (and therefore to be the next UK Prime Minister), has highlighted numerous issues with the quality of leadership and too many to cover in one post (and I believe, much wider than politics. 

As just one example, many argue that the choice between Truss and Sunak show a frightening lack of quality at the highest level of Government. I certainly agree, and again not just restricted to the UK.  But what worries me the most, is that a leader changing a position on a policy is routinely derided. I find this odd and outdated.

In today’s world (governmental or organizational) a leader requires a strong vision and a clear Strategy for its achievement.

However, they also require the courage to change the execution plan based on learning and external change.

Sadly, too many leaders will not change their position, for either a misguided confidence is their approach, or fear of being derided and thought indecisive.

All leaders, including those of political parties, need to say, “here’s my vision and this is my current preferred approach for its delivery, but this might change as circumstances do – but the vision remains.”

The challenge for political leaders is to make changes based on clear evidence, and not to appease public opinion. This requires honest communication with the electorate – few people believe this happens anymore and is a major threat to the institution of democracy as we understand it.       

I have posted elsewhere that as we begin the required far-reaching transformation of how organizations work, are structured, and think, there an no sacred cows, and certainly not how we manage Strategy

Political transformation is also required. And not even the term Democracy is a sacred cow.

Tough challenges ahead.

82: A tool, or rather a set of tools, which is becoming increasingly pervasive and valuable, is Scenario Planning.

Hardly a new concept, as it has been around since the 1950s. But much more valuable in the Age of Uncertainty and turbo-charged by Advanced Data Analytics, Scenario Planning is rooted in the understanding that many factors may combine in complex ways to create sometimes surprising futures (due to non-linear feedback loops). The only thing unsurprising about the future is that it will be surprising.

Particularly useful for Enterprise Architecture Teams that are tasked with predicting the future, deciding how the organization should respond with technology and process change, but also knowing how to model it at all.

It is now a go-to tool for strategists, of course. As I write regularly, we cannot predict the future with a great level of certainty and so need to be able to adapt our assumptions and interventions when required. Scenario Planning helps provide a solid structure to this.

No prediction is 100% reliable, of course, But we need better tools with which to manage how we not just “predict” the future but respond appropriately. Scenario Panning, powered by technology, will be of immense value.

83: Extracting the most value from Strategy Management, as will most of what we do within organizations, is through homing in on where component parts interact, not in the parts themselves. This is rarely done, for the simple reason it is a complex challenge.

For example, spending a lot of time discussing performance of a KPI is of little value if not considered alongside other KPIs. Even doing that provides limited value of not considered alongside the Strategic Objectives that the KPIs support. Even that might not be enough unless we are constantly monitoring the external environment and adapting accordingly.

Kaplan and Norton said some years ago that there was little point viewing intellectual assets (human, technological and organizational capital) in isolation, as they are fully inter-dependent. Yet, we continue to be fixated on measuring employee engagement, leadership, culture, technological capabilities, etc., in isolation – it’s where they interact that really matters and where value will be extracted.

Transitioning from siloed to holistic, dynamic, adaptive thinking is a huge and complex set of inter-connected challenges, but one we must embrace.

For some reason, four famous quotes attributed to Albert Einstein seem apt:

If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” 

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

“Genius is making complex ideas simple, not making simple ideas complex.”

“Everything should be a simple as possible, but not simpler.”

So, what precisely is the problem we need to resolve? How complex is that problem? and how do we identify a solution that is as simple as it should be, but how it can be?

84: I am becoming increasingly interested in the relationship between Enterprise Architecture and Strategy Management.

From a simple Google search. “At its core, enterprise architecture refers to the configuration of IT resources in service of an organization’s business strategy. It creates alignment among a company’s strategic goals, its existing business processes, the data and information created, and the underlying infrastructure that supports it.”

What intrigues me is that I regularly post about how reinventing the Strategy Management process is not about doing this in isolation, but about the fundamental overhaul of how we are structured, behave and relate to stakeholder groups. Technology now underpins everything.

I would certainly be interested in connecting with experts in the Enterprise Architecture field, to learn more about the synergies with my Adaptive Strategy Management in the Age of Uncertainty framework and methodology.

…consultants need to ditch their tried, tested and tired “one size fits all” solutions and enter engagements as more expert guides, while honestly admitting that they don’t have all the answers

85: As we navigate our way through the transformations required in the Age of Uncertainty, an interesting question to ponder is how the consultant/client relationship will adapt.

Being honest, and as several close colleagues have told me, I essentially disengaged from the strategy world about five years ago (probably longer). I came to the realization that the solutions we were peddling (and making good money from) provided little, if any, value.

The world was moving so fast, and changing so quickly, that the classic “this is the way to do it” offerings from consultants weren’t working anymore.

At the start of the first lockdown, I got a message on LinkedIn from somebody who wanted to talk to me. He called me and said he wanted to apologize.

He, along with work colleagues, had heard me talk at a conference a few years earlier. They apparently ridiculed me as I painted a future of regular, and potentially catastrophic global or industry-specific disruptions and that we needed to prepare for this new reality.

When the pandemic hit, he recalled that presentation and said, “I then realized that you weren’t another consultant using fear as a way to make money but was telling the truth.” Hence the apology.

So, what will change in the consultant/client relationship? 

As bitter the pill is to swallow, consultants need to ditch their tried, tested and tired “one size fits all” solutions and enter engagements as more expert guides, while honestly admitting we don’t have all the answers. It will be more a voyage of discovery than a “here’s the solution. Do it and you will succeed spectacularly.” How often does that happen these days?

I recently did a piece of work with one of the top 4 consulting firms (won’t say who, but they are getting a lot of bad press at the moment). I sat through meetings as they explained their approach and how it always works. I was as dumbfounded by the nonsense as the client was (who did not renew their expensive contract – simply because zero value had been provided),

In the Age of Uncertainty, consultants cannot offer certainty. I am now upfront about that. Sadly, some potential clients want cast-iron guarantees and a plug and play solution. I would not accept such an engagement. The challenges in the relationship are two-way.

86: Recession is looming, apparently. Many organizations are wondering how they will cope. Many strategists, and other advisors are similarly pondering what advice to give to clients.?

My answer is simple. Why, in this the Age of Uncertainty, are we even asking those questions?

The underlying premise of my Adaptive Strategy Management in the Age of Uncertainty framework and methodology is that we should not ask such questions – but be prepared for sudden change, be that globally (and basically the norm now) or industry specific.

Make it a part of management thinking to know that something will happen, although we won’t always know what that is, and so build the capabilities and mindset to adapt, as required.

As Charles Darwin said: “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

Organizations would be wise to take Darwin’s comments to heart.

87: Leadership is a critical skill in Strategy Management, as it is in all organizational areas.
 An issue I see in most large organizations is that those who reach the top typically (but by no means always) have done so through their successes at operational levels.
 Therefore, they tackle Strategic issues through an operational lens (that is seeing it a fire to fight!), or they (often unknowingly) assume a siloed mindset when solving the Strategic challenge.
 Being an excellent Operational Leader does not automatically mean that the person will be an equally outstanding Strategic Leader (or vice versa).
 Strategic thinking should be taught from the very moment a staff member assumes their first junior management, or supervisory roles, and with appropriate strategic challenges to address, which will take them outside the comfortable world of their silos.
To be fair, many organizations make efforts here, but I do wonder how much is given to the Strategic thinking ability when promotions are decided or whether such thinking is taught correctly.
 A close family member is early into first junior management role and is clearly excellent at operational delivery. He contacted me and asked if I could teach him Strategy, as he knows that he will need those skills as he climbs the corporate ladder. Smart thinking and simply asking that question demonstrated to me that he does possess a mindset that will lend itself to Strategic thinking.
 Drs. Kaplan and Norton explained in their opening chapter of their final book together, “The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage,” that Strategy and Operations are very different things and that both are important.
 Through the Execution Premium Process (XPP), Kaplan and Norton provided an excellent Framework for linking Strategy  and Operations.
 Sadly, and as I said to Professor Kaplan when I was working with him. few people truly understood that linkage, while claiming to use the XPP.
 He agreed with my observation that the issue was that Execution was not a numbered stage in the Framework, although central to it (this why it in an explicit stage in my Adaptive Strategy Management in the Age of Uncertainty Framework and Methodology, which was inspired by the XPP).
 We need to develop more leaders that understand that Strategic and Operational thinking are two different things and require different mindsets, but who can also clearly visualise the importance of both and where they connect – and then delegate appropriately.

88: End-to-end process management drives substantial efficiency and effectiveness gains, perhaps more measurably than any other intervention.

But it is difficult to do, due mainly to cultural resistance and fears of losing power and control (the all-important personal fiefdoms).

However, when applied, it can really drive breakthrough performance improvements.

Of course, the functional work still gets done, but in the context of the outcomes required from the process.

End-to-end process management has specific complexities for Strategy Management. As there will be many strategic thrusts to manage enterprise-wide, strategy execution cannot be viewed as one linear process, but as a collection of related processes.

The challenges of end-to-end process management are becoming even more complex due to how the nature of work is changing. In twenty-first century organizations, increasing amounts of work will be done by “non-traditional” employees (freelancers, contractors, etc.) and organizations will become more boundary-less, in that partners will take up more of the work in delivering increasingly complex value propositions.

Within the organization itself, technology will make many processes virtual in nature, with parts done in different geographies and time zones, and held together by digital platforms.

End-to-end process management and boundaryless working will necessitate the greater empowerment of knowledge workers—as the virtualized nature of work requires on-the-spot and more real-time decision making—and therefore the further moving away from the rule of the hierarchy and the still too-prevailing idea that management thinks, and workers do.

 What this will look like is still a work in progress. Somewhat ironically, there will likely be something of a step back to the craft-based working that preceded Taylorism.

In the digitally driven working environment., the crafts will be primarily intangible in nature, as opposed to the tangible, physical work of much earlier centuries.

New and rigorous governance models will need to evolve so as to deal with the many complexities of boundary-less working. Dismantling the organizational and people management structures introduced by Taylor and his contemporaries will take some time.

a concept which is often at the forefront of my mind is “unintended consequences,” – outcomes of a purposeful action that are not intended or foreseen.

89: In the Age of Uncertainty, a concept which is often at the forefront of my mind is “unintended consequences,” – outcomes of a purposeful action that are not intended or foreseen.

Unintended consequences can be grouped into three types:

–      Unexpected benefit: A positive unexpected benefit

–      Unexpected drawback: An unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy

–      Perverse result: A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse).

Unintended consequences can be:

–      Knowable and Avoidable

–      Knowable and Unavoidable

–      Unknowable and Avoidable

–      Unknowable and Unavoidable.

With a longstanding interest in history, I am aware that any major global event has myriad unintended consequences.

The recent pandemic proved that well. I was shocked that we didn’t plan for the economic damage that has occurred post-pandemic. Moreover, one modelling study suggested that reductions in coverage of basic life-saving interventions of around 15% for six months would lead to 253,500 additional child deaths and 12,190 additional maternal deaths, across the 118 countries considered, as a result of unavoidable shocks, health system collapse, or choices made in responding to the pandemic

 Robust plans should have been in place for any of this happening. Doesn’t seem to be the case. Sadly. Strategic Risk Management, and all the complexities of predicting, measuring, and responding to unintended consequences is not a strength of Governmental entities.

And Strategic Risk Management it is. As I have stated in numerous posts, risk management has to be a core of any Strategic Management System.

There can be unintended consequences of any decisions. As I explained in one post, KPIs can trigger positive (intended) or negative (unintended) behaviours.

Launching a new product or entering a new market can lead to unexpected benefits (such as identifying a hitherto unidentified profitable solution) or perverse results (such as significantly damaging the reputation of the organization).

Unintended consequences are common when systems are complex. Devising and implementing Strategies is becoming increasingly complex, as are organizations structures, stakeholder relations and the impact of technology and globalization.

Management teams must fully understand the concept and keep it front of mind in any decision-making process.

90: Chris Fox made yet another insightful observation in a post this morning.” Innovation does NOT require failure. Innovation requires you to run experiments.”

This helped crystalize my thinking on success and failure and the role of innovation (although I am still unsure what that means and am appalled at the attempts to develop yet another functional silo – this time focused on innovation).

In my Adaptive Strategy Management in the Age of Uncertainty framework and Methodology, I make much of Strategy being “a set of assumptions that must be verified in execution.” 

Assumptions are just that – assumptions. They might be right, wrong, or partially right. This can only be determined through observation – essentially experimentation. Every Strategic choice is the beginning of an experiment.

Homo sapiens typically like to think in the black and white terms of success or failure.

As Chris rightly says. “These days, it seems we are determined to celebrate failure as if it is a good thing. But this can lead to failure WITHOUT learning.
It’s time we stopped.
Failure may be unavoidable in innovation. But it’s not what is desirable.
And learning won’t just happen by itself. It needs us to put the appropriate mechanisms in place.”

This is precisely why I also make a big deal about Strategic Learning in my framework and methodology.

The purpose of crafting and implementing a Strategy is to deliver results. We don’t plan to fail, but we need to be better at making adjustments when assumptions don’t play out as expected – be that at the high-level “this is how we deliver value” or in the interventions we apply in execution.

91: I am getting increasingly annoyed about how we approach and think about innovation. We want it to become another organized function. Controlled and managed and with set targets. I see many jobs advertised for “innovation specialists.”

There are, unsurprisingly, a burgeoning in innovation consultancies. Love this from one: “For most companies, developing a winning innovation strategy isn’t business as usual. It takes time, skills, and resources, including a dedicated team of entrepreneurial professionals to guide the process.”

What, I ask, is an “innovation strategy?” I also see much mention of the equally silly term, “strategic innovation.”

As with employee and customer engagement programs, organizations will throw billions at innovation projects, and then wonder why nothing changed.

Innovation has to be in the DNA of an organization and the individual – a part of the mindset without a label. Any attempts to “institutionalize” this ain’t going to work.

I always find my most “innovative” ideas do not come in a meeting or while staring at a computer screen, but while watching soccer in a bar. They just spring to mind from seemingly nowhere.

Not true.

What I do is that I purposefully hand over an issue I am grappling with to my subconscious and say “I have no idea how to solve this. You have the expertise, so you figure this. Let me know when you have the answer” And then the solution just pops into my conscious mind.

As odd as it sounds, I see it as some sort of managerial delegation. Why have huge capabilities and try to micromanage them. As true at the individual level as at the organizational level.

92: I participated in a very interesting zoom call with fellow Strategy consultants.

We discussed what to advise clients about dealing with the upcoming recession. We will need to have those conversations, for sure.

But I asked, “We have just come out of the pandemic. Didn’t organizations learn anything?” and “does anyone really think that the recession will be more damaging than the pandemic?”

As I repeatedly post, in this Age of Uncertainty dealing with what we once considered abnormal is the new normal. Organizations, and society generally, must accept there will be shocks to the system – be they small, medium, or catastrophic.

Organizations must build the capabilities to handle each shock. This means expecting them and building the managerial resilience and mindset to calmly steer through stormy waters. 

Image: The Strategy-aligned Structure and Working Relationships:

We must finally escape the shackles of “tried and tested” systems, which are no longer appropriate.
As just one example, many organizations religiously focus on driving all “fat” out of the system and so become “lean.” As Mother Nature taught us, we need some fat so to survive shortages of food. In the pandemic we witnessed widespread lay-offs (taking out not just the fat, but what we needed to simply survive in normal times) and the staff ain’t coming back. Now we are struggling and wonder why.
 We still look for “plug and play” solutions that provide immediate benefits, or as Dr, Deming called it “Instant Pudding,” So, consultancies will offer their solutions that are “proven” to fix your problems. And buy those puddings we will.
 Finally, of course, we will continue to implement classic strategy formulation and execution plans. And then wonder what went wrong.
Simply panicking and asking, “what do we do now?” is not good enough.

93.We must finally escape the shackles of “tried and tested” systems, which are no longer appropriate.

As just one example, many organizations religiously focus on driving all “fat” out of the system and so become “lean.” As Mother Nature taught us, we need some fat so to survive shortages of food. In the pandemic we witnessed widespread lay-offs (taking out not just the fat, but what we needed to simply survive in normal times) and the staff ain’t coming back. Now we are struggling and wonder why.
We still look for “plug and play” solutions that provide immediate benefits, or as Dr, Deming called it “Instant Pudding,” So, consultancies will offer their solutions that are “proven” to fix your problems. And buy those puddings we will.
Finally, of course, we will continue to implement classic strategy formulation and execution plans. And then wonder what went wrong.
Simply panicking and asking, “what do we do now?” is not good enough.

Micromanagement. As pervasive in organizations as it is dumb and performance-sapping.

94: Micromanagement. As pervasive in organizations as it is dumb and performance-sapping.

I expect that part of the reason why employee disengagement scores remain stubbornly high (despite the billions we pour into engagement programs each year) is because micromanagement remains a core part of our Tayloresque school of management thinking.  Managers think, workers do. Managers know best and must watch staff closely for if they don’t, the staff will do all they can to avoid work.

Effective leaders (and all managers are leaders) of course don’t think like this – or even anywhere close.

They provide direction to the team and governance oversight to ensure work gets done and to the expected standards.

They offer guidance and expert support when required, and they recognize when a direct report knows more about a specific area than they do and embrace this (and if required, learn from it).

I recall one person who worked for me writing to me after I had left and said, “The team loved working for you. We appreciated that you gave the time to pass on your expertise, but also that you trusted us, empowered us, and believed that we had the capabilities to do the work.”

As someone once famously said, “If you have good people, get out of their way.”

The key challenge, in my view, is fully understanding the governance responsibility. Effective leadership is not about doing nothing but knowing when interventions and required and how to that properly and without embarrassing and humiliating staff members.

Indeed, whenever I have had to intervene, I do so with the objective of making the team feel even more empowered and engaged. .


95: I shared a post yesterday by Ben Rubin, who opened with:

“A client had paid a blue-chip consulting firm €2m to define a 5-year growth strategy.

Hundreds of pages.

Hyper-detailed modelling.

Cast-iron guarantees of commercial success.”

Ben then explained that when handed over for execution, those responsible for doing so soon realized the “guaranteed” plan could not be implemented, The client’s own customers had no interest in the proposed new products, being one reason. Another being that the consulting firm had been less than rigorous in its market research.

As I move toward the end of my series of 100 posts, a central theme throughout has been that strategy formulation and execution must not be seen in insolation and sequential – one team builds the plan and hand over to others to execution.

Execution must be hardwired to each and every part of the formulation process, so those charged with implementation must be very actively involved in shaping the plan.  “This is a great idea, but will it be valued by customers, and have we asked them? do we have the capabilities and resources to do this? and precisely how will we do it?”

Moreover, insufficient research is as dumb as it is lazy. Too many consultancies believe they are so clever that only they can know the answers. Of course, they do? I mean, all those MBAs must count for something, right?

Oh, and in the Age of Uncertainty, “cast-iron guarantees of commercial success,” is simply laughable. Any consultant making that claim should be immediately shown the door.

And will we ever stop the nonsense of paying consultancies lots of money to design detailed Strategic Plans? Consultants should facilitate, distil the thinking of the client into a very-focused document and, of course, provide their own expertise and knowledge. It should be more an engagement of facilitation than a simple transaction in which a consultancy is paid to write a plan and deliver it in a glossy folder.

Apparently, the client went on to engage the consultancy in other work. Well, the client deserves all they get. Perhaps they should show the CEO the door along with the consultancy.

96: There are many conventional management terms that I believe to be poorly defined, and even not that relevant or accurate anymore. Strategy, being the obvious one. I have posted previously in this, Another one is Risk, especially when applied to Strategic Risk.

Under both ISO 31000:2009 and ISO Guide 73, the definition of “Risk” is no longer “chance or probability of loss”, but “effect of uncertainty on objectives”. Thus, causing the word “Risk” to refer to possible positive consequences of uncertainty, as well as negative ones. 

I like this definition and for two main reasons.

  • It fits perfectly with my mantra about this being the Age of Uncertainty.
  • It highlights that Risks should be seen as potentially beneficial (good things can happen) as well as potentially detrimental (bad things can happen).

I have maintained (as have many others) that Strategic Risk Management, when done well, can provide significant competitive advantage to organizations, especially when Risk Appetite is properly understood and applied constructively.

As with the term Strategy and others, I am still letting my subconscious figure out what workable alternatives are for Risk.

But one thing’s for sure – we must stop viewing Risk with a mindset that starts from the premise that it is about stopping bad things happening. Yes, to an extent of course. But we really need to also focus on the benefits, and then use that knowledge to make appropriate, and potentially winning, competitive decisions.

This why Strategic Risk Management is visible throughout my Adaptive Strategy Management in the Age of Uncertainty framework.

97: Tangential, perhaps, but last week schoolchildren in England received their often (sadly) life-defining GCSE results, including my youngest child.

My son did exceptionally well, and much better than the predicted results provided through teacher assessments. He may have surprised his teachers, but not me. Here is why.

He is diagnosed as a high-functioning autistic (as I am). Also like me, he habitually challenges conventional thinking and ideas. Unfortunately, this has tended to annoy some conventional teachers.

What has this got to do with Strategy Management. Quite a lot – as well as much else in how organizations think, behave and deal with “unconventional” thinkers.

Excellence in Strategy Management requires the ability to see things “differently” and pinpoint opportunities (or threats) that others simply don’t. Such people are often side-lined or even forced out of the organization (has happened to me in my career). 

I think also of the conventional appraisal system (which I detest beyond words!). Unless the appraiser is also on the spectrum, appraisals often don’t go well for the high-functional autistic employee.

Of course, it works both ways. I find it easier to collaborate with people who are also on the spectrum and have focused hard in my career (and life generally) to appreciate and learn from very different thinking. As some examples of people believed to be on the spectrum: Lewis Carroll – Charles Darwin – Albert Einstein – Bill Gates – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sir Isaac Newton, and Nikola Tesla. Me and my son are in good company.

A funny story concerning my eldest son (not on the spectrum). He recently graduated with an MEng, from one of the world’s most prestigious Universities. In his first weeks of his BEng, a fellow student said to him, “This place is a great university, but it is also what I dreaded – but expected. It is full of high-functioning autistics – they are damned hard to complete with when the focus is exclusively on one subject.” Yep.

In the workplace we must celebrate and encourage diversity. This extends to how employees think.

98: I read an interesting article on why political polarization and an inability to compromise is becoming endemic. The theory – Social Media.

Platforms, such as Facebook, show posts that are similar to your own and recommend groups to join that full of like-minded people. All this does is create echo chambers that power our confirmation bias and transform our beliefs (mature or fledgling) from theories to a “proven facts.”

Such thinking has potentially devastating consequences for society, but also for organizations.

When such thinking becomes the norm in the workplace, staff will become more active in seeking out colleagues with the same opinions. The group with the loudest voice will see their theories (not that they will see them as such) implemented – for better or worse.

From an early stage in an employee’s career, we must encourage (indeed institutionalize) processes that teach people critical thinking and how to listen to and appreciate divergent views.

For more senior employees, such abilities are vital to understanding that Strategy is a set of assumptions that must be verified in execution.

As a matter of urgency, we also need to do this in the education system. It would of course be helpful if politicians took the lead here – but I am not holding my breath.

99: Every organization needs a Value Proposition. But, as with much in the bizarre world of Strategy Management, there is no single, universally accepted definition.

One, from an article by Shanelle Mullin in an article on Spotify is useful. Here’s the three bullet points from Shanelle, with my comments.

It’s specific: What are the specific benefits your target customer will receive?

This is about being clear about the features of the product/service and the direct value that the customer receives. Answering the “what does it do” and “so what.” questions.

It’s pain-focused: How will your product fix the customer’s problem or improve their life?

Customers do not buy a product; they purchase something that will make their lives easier. I wrote in an early post that I say to management teams that I have two questions for them, and that I want two very different answers. 1) What products/services do you sell? 2) What are customers really buying?

Kodak did not, as they thought, sell film that had to be processed by them, they sold a mechanism for capturing images. Digital technology did that massively easier and at relatively zero price.

Moreover, customers usually don’t know what they want until they see it. I can’t recall anyone saying to me, “These mobile phones are great, but would be better if they could take photographs.

It’s exclusive: How is it both desirable and exclusive? How well does it highlight your competitive advantage and set you apart from competitors?

These are tricky questions. Desirable is in the eye of the beholder. We might think a product/service is desirable when it isn’t. CNN recently, and painfully, found that out through their disastrous launch of the CNN+.  Few customers wanted it – did the expensive CNN Consultants ask anyone?

As for exclusive, it’s easier to come up with a product/service that does things others can’t, than to maintain a lasting advantage in that exclusivity. A major trap for organizations is when they gain a significant competitive advantage based on exclusivity and then forget that “exclusivity” does not last long. Blackberry springs to mind. Everybody wanted a Blackberry, until they didn’t.

Value Propositions must be clear, understood by customers and employees alike and religiously protected while constantly testing whether it still provides a competitive advantage.

Continually scanning the external environment and competitor movements and changing customer thinking/behaviour patterns and then having the capabilities to adapt the Value Proposition is crucial here.

We are on the cusp of reimagining how organizations function. What we have experienced in the last few years, and will continue to experience, makes it clear than we do indeed live in a new Age of Uncertainty. …Tinkering around the edges and simply improving the institutionalised processes and managerial approaches will be insufficient for the challenges we face

100: Reviewing my series of thoughts, I note that I have not, as I first envisioned, been posting on Strategy Management. At least not in isolation. But rather, on a need to fundamentally overhaul the whole organizational ecosystem (Strategy, Structure, Internal and External Working Relationships, Technological Underpinnings, etc.)

As this is the final instalment of my 100-post series, I will now turn my attention to fleshing out more fully what I mean by this transformation.

We are on the cusp of reimagining how organizations function. What we have experienced in the last few years, and will continue to experience, makes it clear than we do indeed live in a new Age of Uncertainty.

As with anything in evolution, we need to adapt.

Tinkering around the edges and simply improving the institutionalised processes and managerial approaches will be insufficient for the challenges we face. To use a well-worn adage, it will indeed be rearranging the deckchairs as the Titanic sinks.

So, and inspired by a question asked of me by my colleague Alberto Manzo (who asked if there were any books on this ecosystem transformation that I could recommend – I couldn’t think of one) I have decided that my next undertaking will be to write, or co-write, that book.

For this I will start working on a unifying framework. For sure, I will post ideas as they emerge, and for the main purpose of tapping into the excellent minds in my network.

Finally, thanks to everyone for following my posts and the great comments I received. I know for sure that in writing this series I have learned more from others than anyone has from me.



James Creelman is the Strategy Management Practice Lead for the Qatar-headquartered Impact Consulting.

He is also Director of the UK-based Cardinal Management Consulting and an Associate Director of Strategia Worldwide.

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