Good strategy requires a deep organizational knowledge. Or does it? Yet another marathon discussion with the Skinny Professor resulted in an interesting debate about strategy and execution.
Let’s assume that a good strategy is one that is aligned with the organization’s capabilities, in other words, the organization is capable of effectively executing the strategy. Obviously, this isn’t the only measure of a good strategy, but let’s say for our purposes that our strategy meets all of the other requirements of a good strategy, in that we have the resources necessary, that it is valuable, rare and difficult to imitate. (I’m mixing up my models, but it applies here too…)
So now, you, the senior executive, are on the cusp of implementing a bold new strategy. How do you know if your organization has the capabilities needed to effectively implement this strategy? How do you test the validity of your assumptions about the organization?
You have to have deep knowledge about how your organization works. How do you get that deep knowledge? The old-fashioned way. By working in positions across the company, learning about different parts of the business, different functions within the business. This experience results in a well-rounded general manager, who understands how all the pieces work together within one particular company. It means that the senior manager has been around for a while, and gets how things work (or don’t). It takes time and experience to develop organizational wisdom.
This proposition goes against our modern approach to career management. People often change companies every five or ten years. They never build that deep knowledge of organizational capabilities. And they never learn the right questions to ask that would highlight vulnerabilities.
Does a manager need to know the details of every single position in order to make good assessments of strategy? No. That’s not a reasonable expectation of anyone. But I would argue that understanding the mechanics of your organization is an important part of developing and executing good strategy. It’s hard to have credibility if you can’t say, “I’ve been there”.