McKinsey management consultancy released a couple of papers in July which essentially said that in times of pervasive, ongoing uncertainty a company’s top management team needed to spend a lot more time, more often on strategy. Problem was that many of the top managers weren’t equipped to develop and implement strategies.
“Rare is the company, though, where all members of the top team have well-developed strategic muscles. Some executives reach the C-suite because of functional expertise, while others, including business unit heads and even some CEOs, are much stronger on execution than on strategic thinking,” McKinsey consultants Michael Birshan and Jayanti Kar wrote in the July 2012 edition of McKinsey Quarterly.
“In some companies, that very issue has given rise to the position of chief strategy officer— yet even a number of executives playing this role disclosed to us, in a series of interviews we conducted over the past year, that they didn’t feel adequately prepared for it.”
Birshan and Kar went on to suggest that a strategist needs three skills namely understanding what strategy really means in the their industry; becoming an expert at identifying company or industry-disrupting changes that are just over the horizon; and becoming an effective communicator.
In a separate paper in McKinsey Quarterly, fellow McKinsey consultants Chris Bradley, Lowell Bryan, and Sven Smit wrote that “that the only way to set strategy effectively during uncertain times was to bring together, much more frequently, the members of the top team, who were uniquely positioned to surface critical issues early, debate their implications, and make timely decisions.”
The authors suggested meeting two to four hours, weekly or every two weeks, throughout the year. Devoting regular attention to strategy in this way makes it possible to:
-- Involve the top team, and the board, in periodically revisiting corporate aspirations and making any big, directional changes in strategy required by changes in the global forces at work on a company.
-- Create a rigorous, ongoing management process for formulating the specific strategic initiatives needed to close gaps between the current trajectory of the company and its aspirations.
-- Convert these initiatives into an operating reality by formally integrating the strategic-management process with your financial-planning processes (a change that usually requires also moving to more continuous, rolling forecasting and budgeting approaches).