Three approaches to strategy are summarised in Johnson, Scholes and Whittington’s strategic lenses:
1. Strategy as experience. Here, strategic development is the adaptation of past strategies based on experience. In this view, strategy is greatly influenced by taken for granted assumptions, one of which is that the world will advance in a gradual, linear and relatively predictable way.
2. Strategy as design. Here, strategy development is a process of logical and rational thought. Developments that arise are evaluated, resources allocated and specific strategies are followed.
3. Strategy as ideas. Strategies are needed to cope with uncertain, unpredictable and changing environments.
There are analogies here with a suggestion made by Professor Vijay Govindarajan – namely that organisations should place their planning projects into three boxes:
• Short term – projects here are about managing the present and would include process improvement, product and market development. These projects are in response to linear (therefore non-turbulent) changes in an industry.
• Medium-term – projects here concern ‘selectively forgetting the past’ and they are driven by non-linear changes such as the Internet and the ‘Arab Spring’. Projects here are aimed at moving into areas neighbouring the organisation’s core activities.
• Long term – entirely new business ventures. Very speculative, and based on many assumptions.
It is important to realise that the three approaches in each model are not mutually exclusive and that all three will be carried on in parallel:
• It is important that the present is managed carefully and making use of experience and expected developments.
• It is also important that organisations move forward steadily and adapt to changing opportunities.
• At the same time, organisations should be aware of, or should attempt to predict, more radical longer-term changes. Although those changes might not be in place for 10–20 years, work to prepare for them might have to begin now.
In relatively stable times, a company might divide its projects and efforts over the three categories in the ratio 50/30/20. Note that even under conditions of stability, substantial effort should be given to long-term projects.
In turbulent times, companies that are panicked will have projects in category 1 only. They become obsessed about clinging to the safe and familiar, and important longer-term projects might be abandoned. However, a better approach would be to keep projects in all three categories, but perhaps reduce the number in each. Reducing the number in each provides some safety because less investment spent on projects provides something of a buffer in turbulent conditions. However, this approach allows attention still to be paid to the long-term future of the organisation by insisting that longer-term projects are always important.