Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The New How

Anyone who has seen a top down strategy implementation gone awry will know after reading the first chapter of The New How, that Nilofer Merchant gets it.Instead of the traditional approach to strategy creation and execution, she suggests a collaborative, inclusive style. She recounts with extreme candor her own missteps so the reader may learn from her mistakes instead of making their own.

Of the gap between strategy and tactic, a primary driver for failure. Merchant says : One person's strategy is another's tactics. The unnecessary and fruitless war of what is tactics or strategy or execution must end. That hits the nail on the head.She also lists the many telltale signs of trouble in teams, who don't have direction fully translated to a realizable execution plan. The bulk of the book is devoted to the alternative approach - one of being co-creators of collaborative strategy.

It is easy to agree enough to with Merchant's recommendations, but this is the kind of organizational change that cannot go from bottom up. It has to flow down and spread across - and in that may lie the biggest challenge in implementing it. Opening up the super-rarefied environs of strategizing to the hoi polloi, is not likely to make every C suite exec jump for joy. How do they then differentiate themselves from the rest and justify their power, influence or compensation even. If everyone, including folks down in the trenches were to be partners co-creating collaborative strategy, the first thing to go, would need to be the over-size corner offices so partnering could take place on equal terms and in shared space.

Merchant refers to two different kinds of elephants in the room when she discusses the nuts and bolts of collaborative strategy implementation. The first elephant is the big issue that everyone knows about but it's a somewhat taboo topic, so no one brings it up and the issue never gets addressed. The second is one that looks different from every perspective : an important but multifaceted issue that many people see, but each in a limited way. While the idea Merchant proposes in The New How is a very good one, getting it to work may involve getting the first if not both elephants out of the room.

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