John Kim is a Senior Lecturer in Organization & Management at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. He is a management consultant with more than 20 years of experience working with executives to make difficult decisions and implement sustainable change.
Recently, John published a piece that details a ‘Strategy for a messy tomorrow’ where he outlines how businesses must have a strategy development and implementation for an unpredictable business world.
The piece is attached and a must read, especially in these turbulent and unpredictable economic times.
In the article, he focuses on three key points:
1.Beware of False Choices
“One thing we try to teach here at the business school is to be careful of false choices. Business is incredibly dynamic. Every industry is now a technology business, and the corporate playbook that evolved to protect profits is quite outdated.”
Kim notes that Thomas Friedman poetically described this new normal in his 2005 book The World is Flat, and over the last 15 years, competition has only accelerated because of the explosion of two resources: cheap money and data.
Kim notes that it’s a great environment to start or fund a business because interest rates have been low for the last 10+ years. There are dozens of new entrants in all industries, and all parts of the value chain, who are often well-funded, flexible, and are not weighed down by legacy business models and assets. The big winners are the customers who have increasing choice, lower prices, and great value capture.
2.The Challenging Environment
From his corporate experience, Kim sees two significant challenges to strategy implementation. First, senior leaders turn over quickly. “It’s hard to have consistency of vision and leadership and implementation when there is such a movement in the C-suite with someone moving in and someone moving out every 5–6 months. So, it’s not a surprise that a lot of strategies either don’t follow through or there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and strategy gets a little bit muddled as a result.”
Secondly, when the strategy does eventually make it to the ground-floor and needs to be executed, things have often moved on, and the market responses are rarely the ones you expect. Riffing on Peter Drucker’s famous quote on uncertainty, Kim explains to his students that, “Instead of trying to think of something brilliant to do tomorrow, why don’t you think of something very actionable today that prepares us for what we know will be a totally messy, crazy, unpredictable tomorrow.”
3.A Business Executive’s Response
The business executive’s job is to not only set the direction, build a climate of trust, and create the energy for change—but also to be willing to test the assumptions and constraints around a given problem. Increasingly the answers will lie outside of a given industry, and thus require leaders to be broader in their horizon-scanning and more open to alternative paths forward.
If you are interested in learning more about why business do indeed need a a strategy for a messy tomorrow – the let us help.
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John Kim Senior Lecturer in Organization & Management
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