A non suppressive strategy

Regardless of preferences, everyone is better off with a good strategy than without one. Right?  Maybe not. This is a summary of a report I recently wrote on the subject of non suppressive strategies.

As humans we have a deep biased need of a narrative to rationalise random positive events as success accredited to our abilities. In reality. Yes, mild success can to some extent be explained by hard work and skills but big success is essentially because of variance and luck. Basically the force of randomness plays a much bigger part of our lives than we want to give it credit for. Knowing this we can either embrace that and focus on how to thrive in a non predictable environment or as most of us already do now focus on the narrative and put our energy on eliminating risk, or if you will randomness inside our organisations. The top down knowledge of management to large extent already comes from tinkering to fit this narrative. Unfortunately this is not an attribute exclusively associated to strategy. The self confirmation of relevance is a big part of the managerial life and no doubt a liability to any organisations struggle of staying relevant.

Make no mistake. any strategy is imposed. It is a exercise in centralised power, used to overcome the natural workings of things. This coordination is unnatural in the sense that it would not occur without the hand of strategy. With two consequences; 1. A false sense of control because it fits the narrative. 2. that imposed stabilising activities will instead of creating value prevent the systems abilities to adapt and in its turn create hidden risk that given time will lead to a black swan event. By then, when focused and coordinated actions is needed the resources are depleted.

Your strategy is weak 

For a customer it is irrelevant what sacrifices you as a supplier has been forced to do when they create value in their everyday or business processes using your services or products. The assumption that it is the company that creates value for the customer to destroy/consume is simply not correct. It is instead the customers perception of value in use that best reflects anythings true value. This is also equally true for any other stakeholder to the company. Regardless if it is shareholders, financiers, co-workers, suppliers or even competitors. Their perceived value in use of what you help them with is also the true value of your relationship. The sum of that is the value of what you do.

Regardless of what school of strategy you choose to practice it is safe to assume that the expected outcome of your strategy is leverage. Value and stakeholders are, or at least should be at the core of that.

Also, the traditional idea that strategy involves long term planning, an ability to influence the world around you and by that also the possibility to in some extent forecast the future does not fit in this model. To benefit from randomness one must focus on solving the problems at hand. The consequence is that any strategy that starts with a aspirational goal and work its way backward are likely to fail.

In other word; the traditional managerial approach on strategic work takes its authority from rationality and is therefore vulnerable for bias distortions, stakeholders influence and it does not concern itself with how to embrace randomness. This is a weak position that is likely to fail.

Stop doing what makes no or little difference

Most of strategy work focuses on what one should do. To stop doing what makes little or no difference is a big organisational and strategic decision worth more attention and with significantly bigger impact on ones abilities to survival. What has no value for your stakeholders will not be missed. This without imposing any regulation.

Three bullets of a non suppressive strategy

Essentially a non suppressive strategy should be about creating incremental asymmetries in established landscapes and protecting them with strategic alliances.

Or; short-term stake-holder problem-solving and stop doing what makes no or little difference.

  • You are not going to get what you want. You are going to get what you get. Because stuff happens. Deal with it.
  • For your stakeholders it is irrelevant what sacrifices you has been forced to do when they create value in their everyday or business processes using your services or products. 
  • Do not deplete your resources on distractions. When opportunity arise, move determined, focused and coordinated.

Författare: Martin Palacios

Hjälper beslutsfattare, ägare och styrelser att metodiskt och över tid lägga sin begränsade energi där den gör mest skillnad. Nås på +46761108901 eller martin@palacios.se. Twittrar som @palace.

  • http://jnystromdesign.se Joakim Nyström

    Finns det inte fler värden än bara styrning i en strategi? Tänker på ett stycke Sapiens som tar upp begreppet kring uppdiktad verklighet och viktigt det är för just samordning i större grupper.
    En annan sak som slog mig när jag läste igenom posten var att det verkar som att strategi bara bör användas inom system man kan påverka och utanför dem bör man förhålla sig taktiskt, men hur i helskotta ska man närma sig mål på ett strukturerat sätt utan en strategi?

    • http://www.jesperbylund.com/ Jesper Bylund

      En organisationell ”myt” (termen från sapiens) är väl mer troligt organisationens kultur snarare än strategi dock?

      • http://jnystromdesign.se Joakim Nyström

        Jag tänker att strategier ofta utgår från företags visioner/raison d’être, som jag upplever som ”myter”. Utan dessa myten blir ett företag bara en samling människor, kunskap och materiella tillgångar.

        • http://localgrowth.se/ Martin Palacios

          Joakim. lite såhär. Du kommer aldrig få det du vill ha, du kommer få det du får. För skit händer. Det ligger i slumpens natur. Man kan antingen välja att omfamna det här och fokusera på att bli robust och lösa de problem som kastas på en. Eller så kan man sikta på en aspiration och med det börja dölja risk. Din samling av människor, kunskap och materiella tillgångar vill också överleva. Vilket de har större sannolikhet att göra om de slutar jaga en aspiration.

  • http://www.jesperbylund.com/ Jesper Bylund

    A very interesting take on strategy, I hope you’ll write more about ”the traditional managerial approach on strategic work takes its authority from rationality and is therefore vulnerable for bias distortions, stakeholders influence and it does not concern itself with how to embrace randomness. This is a weak position that is likely to fail.” as I’m very interested in HOW one could embrace randomness.

    • http://localgrowth.se/ Martin Palacios

      Yes, this is the big question. How to thrive in randomness. I think that understanding the nature of randomness is a big first step. Basically most of the time the variance from normal is small. Days will pass, some better than others. Here one maybe could differentiate risk / randomness. to in the long run end up on a half decent flip side. Then there will be days with big variance from normal. Very good and very bad days. You don’t need to understand the landscape but you need to know what to look for and what to do when that happens.