S trategy practices that emerged from WWII are increasingly inadequate to the task of guiding today’s organizations, communities and regions.
Even when they are executed, the results from traditional strategic planning are not very strong. This is not a new insight. Noted strategy theorist Henry Mintzberg pointed this out 20 years ago in his book, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning. Bureaucracies tend to strangle innovation. In these situations, strategic planning often morphs into an annual budgeting ritual. Strategic thinking and innovation are sqeezed out of the process.
Even more important, the future has become both volatile and incrasingly unpredictable. Managing in this environment means organizations must be agile and flexible. Again, this is not a new insight. Management theorist Ralph Stacey underscored this challenge in a book he wrote in 1992, Managing the Unknowable.
We are learning that Hertzberg and Stacey were right. Organizations — and communities and regional economies, for that matter — are complex adaptive systems: dynamic networks embedded in other networks.
That makes strategy a different game. It is now a game of hunches and relentless experimentation. As Beinhocker notes, strategy involves a continuous search for linking, leveraging and aligning to a “dancing landscape” of opportunities. It is a game of self-directed teams and distributed leadership. It’s a game of iteration and learning by doing. It’s a game of leveraging our collective intelligence. It’s a game that relies as much on insights from cognitive behavioral theory and complex systems as it does on disciplines of data visualization and data analytics. It’s a game of both strategic analysis and strategic intuition.
It’s taken us 20 years to figure out how to respond to these challenges. I’ve been working on this challenge since our successful strategy for Oklahoma City started in 1993. A small group of us started experimenting with a different approach to strategy. Given the explosive growth we have seen in Strategic Doing in the past year, though, I think we are on to something. The market is telling us that we may have reached our tipping point.