Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Value of Real-Time Strategic Thinking at the American Red Cross


Kaplan and Beinhocker‘s "The Real Value of Strategic Planning" asserts that “real strategy is made in real time,” and thereby creating winning strategy requires an organization to be nimble yet prepared in order to make sound, strategic decisions.  This philosophy was evidenced in a situation I encountered while working for the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross (ARC) during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster.  Our organization was overwhelmed with millions of donations at one time, from millions of new donors to the organization.  The existing human and technological systems were not capable of handling the sudden increased giving and new donors.  I found myself managing a crisis situation, in which my team, in cooperation with divisional leadership, had to quickly develop new strategies and systems that would successfully accommodate this increased, unprecedented activity. The details of how we managed through this “crisis” are insignificant, but the most profound lessons learned in dealing with the situation were reflective of the article's themes.
Namely, the ability to re-think and implement our strategy quickly and effectively were a direct result of the common knowledge and understanding that my colleagues and I shared of each others' responsibilities, processes and execution of work products (“prepared minds and sharing a common fact base”); the involvement of both Divisional leadership and business-unit managers in crafting strategy (including essential participants in the planning process and not only senior leadership); and the strategy resulted informally from “real-time developments” which allowed for creativity and urgency to be used in developing solutions.  While this situation is one very small example of the ARC’s larger strategic planning model, it produced effective results.

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