Strategy vs Strategies

By Bruce Wade

The big debate in the world of Strategy is about having one clear strategy or multiple strategies that focus on different areas for different outcomes.
The academic approach, which is very rarely useful in the real world, is to develop a single company strategy that is strongly connected to the Vision and Mission but points to a specific shorter-term outcome. This is then issues across the business to become the strategy for everyone who does anything.
What we see happening in the real world (sorry academics) is each department, product line and division developing its strategies for multiple tasks and outcomes. Typically we will see a financial strategy, a sales strategy, and a marketing strategy followed by different manufacturing and procurement strategies. But these are not really strategies, it just looks cool when you add this word to the monthly slide together with a colour pie chart.
What we have here are different outcomes and plans that should be linked to a collective desired goal that should be a common focus point for each team and person in the business.
These are actually called OKRs and not Strategies. OKR – Outcomes and Key Results. If you have not yet heard of these, you may be familiar with their distant cousin the KPI. Key Performance Indicators were implemented 30-odd years ago into businesses and became the devil machine that ruled and controlled all performance and salary adjustments.
I have never been keen on KPI and KPA methodology of managing staff to perform like machines and control them like robots. Never has any staff member gotten out of bed on a Monday excited about their KPI for the week.
But OKRs offer a different way of looking at the world. It describes Outcomes and breaks them down into Key Results and Activities. Now that is exciting on a Monday morning. These, if implemented correctly, all point towards just a handful of key Outcomes for a business that is included in a single strategy document for that season.
So, Strategy vs. Strategies: My vote goes to a single strategy that is well documented and then linked to a well-implemented OKR methodology communicated from the top down to all departments, teams, and staff. This creates a common movement resulting in momentum towards the strategy.
Happy to have coffee with anyone who agrees or disagrees on this. Let’s chat.