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A holistic strategy

by Alan Weiss
Indian Management June 2023

Organisational strategy should not be convoluted and complicated. It is about what you want to become. Why are we here?

Organisational strategy should not be convoluted and complicated. It is about what you want to become. Why are we here? What are we about? Not how do we do things?

Strategy must be sentient—able to perceive, and sensitive to, people and issues in the environment. As you and your leadership team utilise sentient strategy, you will want to first determine where you currently reside on a Sentient Strategy quadrant. Plot yourself along two axes:

Consciousness of one’s actions

The one here refers to both individuals making decisions as well as the organisation making a decision as the result of key people doing so. At the low end, people make decisions based purely on the impact on them. They do not consider the short- or long-term effects on others. This is sometimes a knee-jerk response, but it is just as often a considered response that is entirely self-absorbed.

Think about this the next time a restaurant hostess or manager informs you when you attempt a reservation. “Ah, but we are fully committed!” Instead of saying, “Would you be interested in a reservation for the next day?”

There is a restaurant in Providence that we simply do not frequent anymore, despite the fact the food is good, because they refuse to accept reservations, hustle you out when you do manage to sit down, and blatantly cut the line for their favourites. They actually stationed a haughty fool of a man on a landing who smirked as you climbed the steps, “Be aware that you won’t be seated for at least two hours!” Yeah, well, be aware that I will not be back and will tell my friends not to even try.

Elon Musk, for all his innovation and boldness, is totally tone-deaf in this area. He has made rash statements about stock plans and taking Tesla private that drew the wrath—and investigation—of the Securities and Exchange Commission. When his plan for a submarine to save the kids trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand was debunked by an expert diver on the scene (the sub was clearly too big to manoeuvre and was a publicity gesture taking advantage of the calamity), Musk called him a ’pedophile‘ with no justification or fact.

Corporately, I would put Playboy Enterprises and Victoria’s Secret here, which seemed blind to the social changes that were making their products and promotions woefully inappropriate. Remember the runway shows with sexily dressed models that Victoria’s Secret placed on network television as the #MeToo movement was gaining impact?

A high consciousness of one’s actions entails understanding what likely will be accomplished and what must be prevented or supported.

Awareness of the environment

This is not necessarily about ‘green’ or ‘climate’, although it could be. The environment comprises the conditions and realities in which a person or organisation operates and within which activities are executed.

On the low end of this axis, we have companies such as Kodak, deaf and blind to the electronic revolution that was also consuming photography. I would place the Boy Scouts here, which seemed to be uninformed about changing times and resistant to claims of scout leader sexual abuse. They have now incorporated young women into their organisation, creating friction with the Girl Scouts. At the moment, having declared bankruptcy, it is uncertain whether the Boy Scouts will actually survive as an organisation.

Uber represents a startup and subsequent success based on a very astute reading of an environment in which traditional taxi service was often hard to find, cabs were filthy, drivers didn’t speak English and they often didn’t know where destinations were. Uber simply combined existing technologies to create a highly effective, clean, and comfortable ride in differing price ranges based on value to the customer. (It’s also important to mention Uber’s problems with poorly chosen drivers and sexual predation among them, but that’s not a corporate failing to understand the environment. Rather, it’s a tactical and executional mistake in management judgment, oversight, and selection.

Ask your colleagues independently, “Where is your organisation currently located?” Then, compare notes.

You should be conscious of your environment and aware of the impact of your decisions when driving a car, engaging in a sport, attending a business meeting, and in any number of similar activities. Why would you not, deliberately and with discipline, do the same when considering the future of your business?

Alan Weiss Alan Weiss, Ph.D., is President, Summit Consulting Group, Inc. Alan is author, Sentient Strategy: How to Create Market-Dominating Strategies in Turbulent Economies.

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