Update: This post is adjusted since I attributed some of the answers to Guy Kawasaki and not Michel Raynor who actually answered the questions.
Today Art Hutchinson pointed me to Guy Kawasakis blog and the post on Michael Raynor’s book The Strategy Paradox called How to Change the World: Ten Questions With Michael Raynor. It struck me as Kawasakis post set the light on a very good example on how to talk about strategy within it’s own realm. E g taking little, if any, notice of the fundamental changes at lower levels which is what both changing the game radically, but also underpins the fundamental uncertainty today.
I started to get real interested when Raynor started to talk about the different levels:
The rest of the solution lies in calibrating the focus of each level of the hierarchy to the uncertainties it faces.
Yes, this sounds terrific! But then he ends at the middle manager level saying:
Managers should ask: How can we best execute on the commitments that have been made in order to achieve our performance targets? To put it on a bumper sticker, they have to â€œshow us the money.â€ There are no strategic choices to make at this level, because the time horizons are too shortâ€”six to twenty-four months. Strategies simply canâ€™t change that fast.
By the last sentence he is defining the whole game from a strategic level where the uncertainties are believed to come come from the outside the organisation which makes the lower levels strategically irrelevant. The point I was trying to make in my (to long) post Mind the gap a couple of days ago was that this exclusive view from top of “Mount Strategy” is a fundamental part of the problem. And even more so in the future. When Raynor refers to Stephen Wolfram saying:
First, any system must have boundaries that define it, since any system without boundaries would be the universe itself. Second, no system is entirely closed. Therefore, every system is subject to exogenous, and necessarily unpredictable, shocks that introduce randomness into the system.
he is right! But Raynor misinterpret what this means. The shocks that introduce randomness into the system can also come from what is thought to be the conceptual foundation for the strategic level of thinking. Strategic thinking is actually constituted by and dependent on the work at the lowest level. In this sense the strategic world could be a separate system not just from the outside world, but also from the lower levels on which depends and claims to include.
Yes, I agree with Art’s post, that
A need for divergent scenarios that empower management teams to think systemically across and around boundaries–recognizing but not being hemmed in by them [my emphasis]. The goal: strategic resilience whatever may come.
But to do that you have to cross the gap and embrace both levels to do a good job.