We seem to be missing a community of applied organizational strategy. I find it a struggle to find regular materials to read and learn from. The long form business publishing industry is prodigious, but short form is scarce. Where are our internal strategists?
The best materials I find are from VC, financial analyst/advisors, and military thinkers – historians and upstarts. Investors have a short term agenda. Military strategists have an unrelated agenda. VC have a narrow on growth and long-shots. Management consultants also fall into this category, but are quiet about their thinking on anything outside the macro trends we can learn elsewhere.
The majority of these groups create content at the wrong level for learning on the job. With the exception of VC, they tend to create macro level viewpoints which must be synthesized and absorbed over time. Financial analysts, when operating at the individual asset level, can provide insight into (agenda driven) goals, but rarely know or understand the operational levers available to up and coming leaders. VC can be an interesting group to learn from, but the external content they create is often focused on rapid scaling, long shots, and personality driven.
What should we learn from each?
* Military strategists – this group has the brightest and clearest use of strategy, the alignment of internal assets to affect external forces in a sustainable and desirable fashion. The downside is comparable assets and forces must be translated through analogy and metaphor into applicable action. I don’t care how much you want that transaction, you’re not blowing up a literal bridge to reroute the commute of the client’s or competitor’s marketing team.
* Financial advisors/analysts – Advisors are often macro-focused in providing general advice: jobs growth, earnings season, housing price indexes. Analysts reporting on individual assets are business outcome focused (stock price), and rarely have the time or expertise to dive into the depth necessary to suggest actionable strategies for managers: eg. given limited resources, is it worth incremental spend and effort to pursue ecosystem over additional product focus. These are all impact your business, but more so on extraction of value (asset pricing) than on value creation. Together, they provide great external context for the companies covered: what are the factors affecting the attention of the ownership, and benchmarking assets to an industry or sector provides pointers to business practices in others worth exploring
* Management Consultants – are a group who create strategy for others for a living, and thus are reticent to provide thought leadership type information others can use build their own expertise. As a result, much of their external publication is at the macro trend level (“How 5G will affect the transportation industry.”) If you want to know their thought process, you hire the firms or poach their people. The typical downside in this type of advice is they are external, and often are not funded long enough to read into the intangibles of an organization which can dramatically affect execution.
* VC – With an industry focused on long shots and hypergrowth, often with young and unproven leadership there’s a lot to learn here. There can be a focus on leadership development, market fit, and corporate structure fit as the organizations go through massive change. A caution though, not all organizations, or even rapid growth groups within organizations, fit this bill. The second caution is timeframe and goal alignment: while VC have a healthier and longer term view of success than many other groups, it is worth keeping in mind that their goal is the exit: sale or IPO. They want out of the business.
Where are the internal thinkers? Where are our corporate strategists, our marketing and product leaders?