Prerequisites for effective strategy development

A recent article discusses the failures of strategizing (or strategy development) in US defence and foreign policy. By inference, it highlights the prerequisites for effective strategy development (SD).

Challenge the status quo. The authors lament that much of what is called SD is simply tinkering at the edges of current plans. Their view is that SD requires (a) a willingness to challenge (i) pre-existing thinking in organisational (and possibly national) culture and (ii) the power interests of corporates and government bureaucracies; (b) the creation of an open market-place of ideas where all options compete on a level playing field; and (c) the explicit acknowledgement and addressing of the complexity and political reality of implementing change in current systems. It is not a task for the faint-hearted.

Plurality of views. Effective SD requires a plurality of views in the definition of target outcomes, priorities, options and processes. This guards against blinkered (or one dimensional) thinking; allows for the definition and reasoned consideration of a range of alternatives; and may help reduce distortion of the final message, particularly if the underlying logic is clearly articulated.

Focus on flexibility. The international situation is turbulent and unpredictable.  This complexity and uncertainty precludes the definition of a single ideal strategy.  As a result, strategy must be flexible. The corollary is that leaders need to become comfortable with uncertainty and be prepared to wrestle with the nebulous definition of flexibility in both organisational direction and process. Developing appropriate measures of success remains a challenge.

These phases of SD are difficult but not impossible. In Australia, they have been employed in work with government agencies and primary producers in the Goulburn Valley and south-west Victoria. They are also being implemented by successful companies in the US and government departments in various EU countries.

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