An article entitled, “A Call to the Future, The New Air Force Strategic Framework”1 has been sitting in my read list since the latest edition of Air and Space Power Journal was published a few months ago. After reading Harvard Business Review article, “Your Strategy Needs a Strategy”2 I decided to read it and see how the new Air Force strategic framework compared with the concepts in the HBR piece.
It was interesting to note that while the authors of the HBR article define four distinct strategic styles best suited for the operational environment an organization finds itself in, most companies chose only two of the styles, the classical and visionary styles, ignoring or misreading factors that may make either the adaptive or innovative styles a better fit for their circumstances. The factors that need to be considered are how predictable is the environment you compete in and to what extent you or your competitors can influence that environment. Based on the answer to these questions, an organization should adopt a strategic style that allows it to plan and execute optimally. Those that do, outperform other organizations in their sector.
Gen Mark A. Welsh III, describes the Air Force’s environment as one that is both highly unpredictable and malleable. Based on this environment, the Air Force should be following an innovative strategy style. However, because there are well reasoned limitations on the extent that the Air Force can shape its future environment (legal, political, fiscal), the strategic style outlined is more of an adaptive approach. Other actors in the environment may be able to rapidly change the competitive landscape through technological breakthroughs or less operational restrictions. The Air Force Strategic Framework is to develop an organization that is agile and can meet these challenges as they arise. Traditionally, it has been difficult for the military in general and the Air Force specifically to rapidly develop and field new capabilities and this is a key focus of the new strategy that will involve fostering change both within the organization and with the Air Force’s many external partners.
1. Welsh, Mark A. III, “A Call to the Future, The New Air Force Strategic Framework”, Air and Space Power Journal, May/June 2015.
2. Reeves, Martin, Claire Love, and Phillip Tillmans, “Your Strategy Needs a Strategy”, Spotlight on Strategy, Harvard Business Review, September 2012.
Ted Anderson, tbanders