Posts Tagged ‘HBR’


A series of reflections on the Harvard Business Review’s (2011) 10 Must Reads on Strategy…

I have begun to reflect on strategic leadership lately, it has come out of coffee shop conversations truly. The core is what does it mean. Like when I was involved way back in the day with ASQC/ISO things, there is less substance than some observe. Short hand for the acronyms was truly being able to create manuals of what your company did so anyone could pick them up and do, it was sold as efficiency, but was it?

The same token can be asked about the latest buzzword around “Strategic Leadership” as it has become the new norm. A way for companies it appears to throw away relationships, elders, as the focus becomes hyper fixated upon the greatest quick fix craze (our conversation started here: A Failure of Nerve: A Review). The first article within this text is by Michael E. Porter (1996) “What is Strategy?”. Some would say it is a benchmark question.  Porter defines strategy as “creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities.” (p.16) and goes on to point out that for strategy to be effective there is trade-offs (p.17). He arrives at this definition after a meandering through defining what is operational effectiveness, which is the delivery system of what you do as efficiently as possible. There is a barrier of market share you can achieve, and a maximum return on this investment.

This leads the article to outline what strategy isn’t, and then being able to define what it is. The point then being that to achieve the strategy organizations needed to be willing to trade-off. Now, this is where it can get mucky from some perspectives, for before trade-offs can begin, one needs to understand the core values of the organization (that which is non-negotiable) and how this supports and works with the strategy. When one does not achieve these, it goes badly under the guise of strategic leadership, for wisdom is lost, chronic organizational anxiety for the quick fix takes hold, and autocracy takes over. The sad part, is many times the autocrat who has their own echo chamber to listen to (consultants, inner-circle, quantitative data without emotion, etc) will lose that which a good consultant will already point you to: a leader with strong integrity and differentiated from the unhealthy aspects, will not be able to retain those in the organization that will healthily support the strategy in implementation and activation. Let that settle in, we can be so quick fix oriented, that we drive away those that can get the job done, simply because they first appear against because they are the differentiated. They are the ones’ willing to say the Emperor has no clothes, but let’s make a robe.

Some organizations are willing to trade off the older/elder because it helps the profit margin, the salary bottom line to employ the younger less experienced, and creates less ripples. The hard part is that relationships are lost, the art of care and integrity is not passed on, neither is the connectivity to the consumer. Porter uses many business to point out that you cannot be all things to everyone, and need to focus on your core competencies, that support your values, and are hard to replicate. That meandering and mediocrity happen when everyone attempts to be the same, when they assume and function as if trade-offs do not need to happen. Great for business, but how does this relate to the church?

It does quite frequently as we attempt cookie cutter ministry. One example is a church I served in that was a strong seniors church, understood care for their generation in their homes, the church (Sunday Sundaes, Men’s Breakfasts, knitting circles, Hymn Sings, antique shows), and extended care. They did not embrace and live into that saying there would be no growth. How could they attract the youth and young families?

They had missed that by being authentically themselves. Not worrying about an active Children’s ministry or youth (as they had none), what they would attract was the older people in the area, but upon visiting young families that were no longer close to their homes would be able to have elders in their lives. Yet all of it was lost, simply because they could not be content and live into who they truly were, they believed the non-trade-off mentality that they needed A-V to be a viable congregation, yet W-Z that they had would make them a healthy, vibrant, and welcoming community if they only could release their chronic anxiety…and sadly anyone who tried to point that out was abruptly shown the door.

It is quite a few gobbly gook business vernacular to simply say, figure out what you truly are, and offer what others cannot. Then that becomes the strategy moving forward.

At the intrinsic community level that is the question to be asked, who are we? Who am I? If we were to be gone tomorrow would we be missed?

What is strategy? It is being authentic in who you are.

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