Strategy, the eminent management thinker and consultant Peter Drucker once observed, is "a sense of direction around which to improvise." Implicit in that statement is the world of profound change we see around us—a world in which the scope, speed, and complexity of change is so pervasive and disruptive that the very notion of a constant and unchanging strategy simply becomes untenable. We have no choice, as Drucker suggests, but to improvise.
The reality, however, is that many organizations are improvising in the absence of a sense of direction. Tactics have overwhelmed strategy, short-term issues have overshadowed longer-range considerations, and strategic planning has taken the place of strategy. As a result, they are flying blind into circumstances that are becoming all the more challenging. Other groups engage in strategy as a recreational practice—through the occasional corporate retreat or offsite meeting designed to help leaders engage in more over-the-horizon thinking.
The Global Business Policy Council is committed to helping leaders continually define, update, benchmark, and execute their strategies. We provide broad-based support through:
- Identifying global trends: We pinpoint and assess core drivers of change before they hit the headlines. The GBPC actively "pings" the external environment by constantly monitoring change in demographics, the global workforce, consumer behavior, globalization, resources and the environment, technology, regulations, and activism.
- Engaging in foresight: Contemplating out-of-the-box outcomes—including low-probability and high-impact contingencies—is critical to effective leadership. The Council has a rich tradition of hunting for the "known-unknowns" and the "unknown-unknowns" as part of our Global Radar initiative.
- Visioning possible outcomes: In a world marked by ever-smaller margins and operational constraints, the rationale for addressing long-range contingencies becomes more tenuous. The stakes, as the long list of failed companies attests, are too important to abandon strategic leadership.
- Engaging in scenario planning: Rigorously imagining the future through the scenario planning process is a mainstay of strategy, but there is always room for improvement. The Council has offered a range of scenario-planning services to our clients for decades, and continues to refine and innovate current methodologies. In addition, the GBPC carries out a program each year with Oxford University's Said School of Business on scenario planning and formulation.
- Assessing risk management: As many current events underscore, the nature and magnitude of risks can and do change quickly. How do companies balance risks and rewards when it comes to pursuing opportunities? The GBPC has an impressive track record of helping companies assess their risk exposure.
- Formulating strategies: The culmination of discrete elements amount to a robust strategy—the much needed "sense of direction" that Peter Drucker describes. Such a strategy typically includes a set of assumptions about the external environment, a detailed assessment of trends by industry or region, and issues specific to organizations. The Council works with a wide range of clients in developing such strategies.
- Developing implementation steps: Winton Churchill said, "However beautiful a strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." Implementing a strategy, especially one that requires significant organizational change, implies the need for a corresponding strategy on implementation. Over the years, we have worked with clients to establish monitoring mechanisms, identify benchmarks and milestones, and design review sessions where executives have an opportunity to "improvise" their strategies.
Centuries ago Sun Tsu observed: "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory; tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." Although his words were intended for an entirely different world, they could not resonate more fully than in the current context of transformational change. A.T. Kearney's Global Business Policy Council is committed to helping our clients navigate as the complexities mount and the scope of change widens.
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