Management thinker Henry Mintzberg labels the phrase "strategic planning" an oxymoron. He says that real strategy is made informally - in hallway conversations, in working groups and in quiet moments of reflection on long plane flights, if there is one person or company that lives on these standards - it is Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Group.
Started as an audio record mail order business in 1970, the Virgin Group is now a conglomerate of over 200 companies in over 30 countries with interests in media, travel, entertainment, lifestyle, broadband, TV, radio etc. Sir Branson is known for informal charismatic style of business and his ability to make quick strategic decisions. After establishing a successful record business someone suggested to him to start off an airline, instead of wasting time in organizing a formal meeting and going through the nuances of convincing stakeholders, he did some simple math to check whether the venture is profitable. Once he was convinced, he dialed in at Boeing's headquarters to ask whether he could lease an aero plane, they listened to his plan and the deal went through. This was the start of the highly successful Virgin Atlantic Airways.
Being approachable by even the lowest ranked workers of the group is another of his traits, for instance, when one of the flight attendants in his airline approached him with her vision of starting off a wedding business, Richard told her to go for it. He even put on a wedding dress himself to launch the publicity. Most of his companies make profit even when he has no prior expertise or experience in those businesses.
He is truly a role model when it comes to making sound strategic decisions.
1. The Real Value of Strategic Planning (Kaplan and Beinhocker, MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2003)
2. Richard Branson's Virgin Success
The Incredible Triumph of and Enigmatic Entrepreneur