Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The person behind the strategy

Throughout the course, we have learned so many different strategies and approaches all for the betterment of the company’s performance and sustainability within the market.  But what about the people involved?  Can anyone be a strategist?  Does a person need to possess certain qualities in order to be successful?  These were some questions I had stirring in my mind after this week’s readings.

I, personally, associate strategy with leadership.  Both areas require clarity in vision, mission, company goals, etc.  Unfortunately, it is common to focus on formulating a strategy and getting the analysis right at the beginning rather than going through the multiple analytical (scientific) steps over a period of time and creating a lifestyle around the strategy.[1]  Remember, strategies are ideas, and sometimes teams can create actions around them. If not, they continue to remain an idea; it is important to be able to make this distinction.

Other points to be aware of are your values and your strengths and weaknesses.  In Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy, the article highlighted the various characters one may encounter in the strategy team.  Being aware of who is at the table and that you all are “an imaginative yet grounded team” will help ready the strategic process.[2]  At the end of the strategic creation/process, the mutual understanding and agreement of the future plan are key in ensuring everyone within the company and everyone in the market are clear on the business’s focus.  An example of this clarity was evident in Ben and Jerry’s when Ben Cohen stepped down from CEO.  Granted the company had experienced hardships in sales during the late 80s and early 90s, but the founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, knew they were not fit for the job and what the market was demanding at the time.  Jerry’s honest statement to the NYT hit the nail on the head; “In terms of creating an evolving vision for the company, instilling values, pushing the boundaries of what our company can do, Ben and I have an incredible amount to offer. In terms of day-to-day management, we are lost.”[3]  As leaders, both men knew there was an opportunity for growth at this time and I wouldn’t doubt they knew Bob Holland was a good fit even if he wasn’t a “typical Ben & Jerry’s employee.”

A final point which resonates well both within strategy and leadership is staying true to yourself. Last night I read Ben & Jerry co-founders were arrested yesterday along with numerous activists as part of the Democracy Awakening event.  Without getting into politics, know that Ben and Jerry cared enough for this cause and were “willing to risk it all—[their] reputation, [their] values, [their] business—for the greater good.”[4]

[1] Nobel, Carmen. "Are You a Strategist?" HBS Working Knowledge. 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
[2] Lafley, A.G., Martin, Roger L., Rivkin, Jan W., and Sigglekow, Nicolaj. “Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy.” HBR. 2012.
[3] Collis, David. “Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, Inc.: A Period of Transition.” HBS. 2005.
[4] US, Ben And Jerry's. "Why Ben and Jerry Just Got Arrested." Http:// 2016. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

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