“How Technology- driven Business Strategy Can Spur Innovation and Growth”

25 02 2010

“Where is your strategy development approach taking you?”

The article, “How Technology-driven business strategy can spur innovation” by Saul J. Berman asks this question of its readers.

In the past “business leaders have viewed technology as the primary means to execute and implement their business strategies.” However today organizational leaders are realizing that by “making technology an input to the strategy process rather than an after-the-fact” component is very effective in strategy making.

Before, innovation created technology, but now technology creates the innovation.

Achievements of Technology -driven innovation

  1. Companies were able to “Change the basis of competition”
  2. They “Broke the rules of scale”
  3. They “Introduced totally new business models”

Principles of Technology-driven strategy innovators

  1. “Consider technology a core input”
  2. “Revisit strategy and technology context regularly”
  3. “Uniquely manage emerging business opportunities”
  4. “Plan for disruptions”
  5. “Manage for today’s and tomorrow’s context”
  6. “Focus technology on the customers’ priorities”

Innovation is now critical to sustained growth” (4).


Why Leadership-Development Efforts Fail

25 02 2010

Some thinkleadership has become the hottest topic in business.”  As it has become a hot topic, there have come unsuccessful ways of implementing leadership development, which this article refers to as ‘pathologies.’

Pathology“the causes and effects of systematic problems in the way organizations attempt to develop leadership capability.”

  • 3 Pathologies in Leadership Development:

Outdated thinking about ownership, a product-focused quick-fixes mentality, and make-believe metrics that measure activity rather than capability” are leadership development efforts that will fail you.

1) The “Ownership Is Power” Mind-Set

-This mind-set can focus on control (–withholding information), ownership (–nonparticipation) and power-oriented thinking.

-You can give individuals “opportunities for development through challenging assignments” …and if they take “responsibility” for those assignments… you need to “seek feedback” and give “realistic assessments” as a follow-up to those assignments.  This is good accountability.

If you're going to be a power munger and authoritarian, don't expect anyone to enjoy working under you. Instead, share ownership (don't hoard it).

2) The Productization of Leadership Development

-Sometimes leaders can focus on products versus solving problems.  Products can be a short-term fix but solving problems helps the long-term strategic goals.

-Leadership training programs cycle in and out companies and do not link the leadership “ideas to the context of the business.” –They’re like a “series of disconnected programs sold by consultants to training managers who don’t understand our business” one person was quoted as saying.

-Leadership development does not take place in one-day, paint-by-the-numbers, ‘edutainment’ sessions.

3) Make-Believe Metrics (‘Metrics’ are like keeping a scorecard)

-The belief that leadership development can be measured by “quantifiable activities” really avoids the greater, needed questions and purposes of leadership development, which aren’t necessary shown in number changes that reflect growth.

-Avoided questions that leadership development should be geared towards:  “Are we better able to fill key jobs when they arise?  To what extent are our leadership programs building managers’ commitment to our strategic direction?”

-You know your leadership development is failing “if employees perceive that they are wasting their time attending programs that do not build competitive capability or create the next generation of talent.”

  • Treating Pathologies in Leadership Development:

1) Share Ownership and Demand Accountability … Don’t look at management as your opportunity to show your power and authority but rather an opportunity to motivate people and build collective intuition.

2) Invest in Processes, Not Products … “Executives learn leadership much more effectively from experiences than from educational courses.”

3) Measure What Matters … Leadership development should be “building the capabilities that will produce superior business results.”  That includes more than just analyzing activities and seeing number growth.

Be Coherent, Not Visionary

19 02 2010

Vision has always been important to an organization. It is sometimes considered so important that is can be considered part of leadership. However, the author of this

article, Be Coherent, Not Visionsary, says that vision is not the most important key. Coherent action is key to a company. In fact, according to the author, guiding this type of action is the key task of management. There are a few keys about coherence.


  • Is about acting in a manner consistent with who you are given your present spot in the business landscape
  • Are those actions that make sense to others in our organization
  • Cannot be produced
  • Is not a rigid state, but rather is a process that reflects the ongoing alignment of identity, purpose and values

The author reinforces time and time again that both vision and action are important. “Missions are cast in vision: first see a future that is virtually inevitable, and then adopt a mission to participate in that future.”

19 02 2010

The Configuration School

How strategy is transformed and arranged.

Premises of the Configuration School:

1.) Most of the time, an organization can be described in terms of some kind of stable configuration of its characteristics: for a distinguishable period of time, it adopts a particular form of structure matched to a particular type of context which causes it to engage in particular behaviors that give rise to a particular set of strategies.

2.) These periods of stability are interrupted occasionally by some process of transformation– a quantum leap to another configuration.

3.) These successive states of configuration and periods of transformation may order themselves over time into patterned sequences, for example describing life cycles of organizations.

4.) The key to strategic management, therefore, is to sustain stability or at least adaptable strategic change most of tht time, but periodically to recognize the need for transformation and be able to manage that disruptive process without destroying the organization.

5.) Accordingly, the process of strategy making can be one of conceptual designing or formal planning, systematic analyzing or leadership visioning, cooperative learning or competitive politicking, focusing on individual cognition collective socialization or simple response to the forces of the environment; but each must be found at its own time and in its own context, In other words, the schools of thought on strategy formation themselves represent particular configurations.

6.) The resulting strategies take the form of plans or patterns, positions or perspectives, or else ploys, but again each for its own time and matched to its own situation” (305-306).

A thought that is brought up in the Configuration School: “Seek simplicity and distrust it” (347). What do you think? Which is a more desirable format for strategy, simplicity or complexity? Do both possibly have their own appropriate place and time when it comes to strategy formation? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

Robust Adaptive Strategies by Beinhocker

18 02 2010

“An adaptive population of strategies keeps an array of options open over time, minimizing long-term and irreversible commitments.”

Is it beneficial to have several strategies at one time instead of focusing the organization on one strategy at a time?

Whether you realize it or not, we can answer this question by watching a basketball game.

Robust adaptive strategies create "flexibility and a higher probability of success."

 Teams always have several different plays (robust adaptive strategies) that they use at the appropriate time to achieve the best results.  These plays help the team work together towards a main goal, but the players need to be at ease with “rapid change” and know how to navigate under uncertainty on the court.

Just like basketball players, we need to have a population of strategies that are based on the core competencies of the organization to achieve a competitive advantage.  However, companies can not afford to do everything, so they need to have a handful of the best strategies to capitalize on with their available resources.

The article also stated that we can not rely on our predictions, so we need to focus more on the power of evolution.  This statement is informing us about the benefit of leaving some strategies open and letting them evolve into a strategy that is innovative in order to maintain an advantage in the industry.  Even though basketball players have set plays they can adapt to different circumstances and create a new play that was unexpected by the other team.  We need to replicate this practice by adapting to the competition and new situations that occur in the business environment.

The Environmental School

15 02 2010


The Environmental School says that there are a “set of forces outside the organization,” which most of the time organizations react to because it, in fact, is really the MAIN force, the ACTOR, not just a factor, of strategy.

The environment is a leading force to the organization and to personnel leadership as shown below.  As you can see, LEADERSHIP and the ORGANIZATION are subordinates to the changes of the ENVIRONMENT (according to the Environmental School).




There are general forces in the environment that drive the strategy-making process.  Organizations have to respond to those forces or they will die off.  Leaders must read the environment and be able to adapt in a proper fashion.  Lastly, organizations are clustered together and will die when resources become too scarce.

A criticism of the Environmental School is that it is quite vague and abstract overall.

Q:  If indeed the external environment is affecting you so much and you have no choices in the matter then how does a company tangibly lead an organization if the environment is supposed to and everything is uncertain?  (Don’t physical human beings still have to lead?)

What’s great about the Environmental School is that it gives insight into how to define ‘Strategic Choice.’  Strategic choice is about “how to find a strategy and where to find it, or else how to create a strategy when it can’t be found, and then how to exploit it.”  The Environmental School helps strategists see when strategic choice is most limited and what types of organizations are most constrained.


Strategy as Strategic Decision Making

11 02 2010
  1. Four Approaches to creating strategy and making decisions
    1. Build Collective Intuition
      1. Effective Strategists
        1. Very likely to hold “don’t miss” meetings
        2. Avoid accounting and future based information
        3. They use real-time information to build their assessments
          1. Both internal and external
      2. Less Effective Strategists
        1. Rarely meet with colleagues
          1. Cancel meetings due to traveling
        2. Rely on market analyses and future trend projections that are rendered useless eventually.
        3. While they may be knowledgeable about their respective interests, there is no collective intuition.
      3. Why it works
        1. Creates teams that know each other very well
        2. Creates frank conversations.
        3. Creates a “gut feeling” that gives managers a grasp of changing competitive dynamics.
    2. Stimulate Quick Conflict
      1. Effective Strategists
        1. Accelerate Conflict
          1. Create diverse teams of differing ages and gender.
          2. Use “Frame-breaking”
            1. Scenario planning to create different future outcomes.
          3. Creating Multiple Alternatives
      2. Why it works
        1. Different POVs
        2. Constructive conflict is expected
    3. Maintain the Pace
      1. Effective Strategists
        1. Make decision a pace rather than a race
        2. Take two to four months on a decision
        3. Prototype decision and test them
      2. Less Effective
        1. Rush to a decision
        2. Aren’t prepared and procrastinate
        3. Usually end up having a person making a “shot gun” call
      3. Why it works
        1. Helps managers plan and recognize similar aspects of decision making
        2. Consensus with Qualification
          1. The goal for decision is to have a consensus.
          2. If no consensus, pull the trigger
    4. Defuse Politics
      1. Effective Strategists
        1. View that politicking is using information for their own advantage, leading to poor decision making
        2. Create common goals
        3. Balanced power structure among managers
        4. Humor defusing politics
      2. Less Effective
        1. Usually have an inward focus that lacks teamwork
        2. Try to impress the CEO
      3. Why it works
        1. Creates a sense of shared fate
        2. Puts people in a positive mood