Let’s be clear. Open Strategy is NOT:
- Just a methodology or toolset
- A free-for-all where leaders sacrifice their decision-making rights
- A brand new concept
- Always the right approach to use
It is not some PR stunt where leaders appear to be engaging and consulting with different perspectives when in reality, they are not.
In fact, the most successful leaders are the ones who acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers. This change in perspective enables them to open up the strategy process to involve outsider perspectives.
In a survey, 200 top executives using Open Strategy were asked what outcomes they achieved:
When applied to just 30% of their organisation initiatives, those same initiatives generated 50% of revenues and profits
We thought it would be helpful to look at what Open Strategy is not as we want to be clear about some of the misnomers.
The following spells out some of the major perspectives of what it is not.
If you’d like to read about What IS Open Strategy, check out our article here.
1) Open Strategy is not just a tool or a methodology
Open Strategy is not just a tool or framework where you follow a 10-step process and end up with the right outcome.
Open Strategy is not a mere tweak to traditional strategy but a new business philosophy, a fundamental shift in thinking
Julia Hautz, co-author of Open Strategy
Open Strategy starts with the right mindset from leadership.
2) Leadership don’t lose any decision-making rights
Open Strategy is not some overly relaxed management technique where the leadership team loses control of final decisions or stops making the important calls for the organisation.
It’s quite the opposite. Leaders retain control over the process and make the final strategy decisions.
But instead of relying on their own assumptions, leaders tap into outside perspectives and establish unique insights to make powerful strategy choices.
3) Open Strategy is not a free-for-all
Open Strategy is not a popular voting process where decisive decisions are not made.
Designed correctly, there is no risk of competitive or sensitive information or IP being compromised whatsoever.
Instead of getting tripped up over incorrect internal assumptions, leaders remove blind spots by involving outside perspectives into their market and customer insights to make the best strategy choices.
4) Open Strategy is not a brand new concept or new fad
There is a growing group of leaders and organisations that are already approaching strategy with these principles.
Open Strategy incorporates similar concepts like diversity, design thinking, systems thinking, and co-design. It is about including the people who will be executing or experiencing the results of strategy (i.e. clients).
The term Open Strategy can be looked at like an umbrella term to help articulate these concepts better.
5) It does not slow things down
As Stephan Friedrich von den Eichen talked about in our recent What is Open Strategy webinar, done right, taking an Open Strategy approach does not slow things down. In fact, looking at the bigger picture, it speeds up the overall strategy and execution process by between 20-50% compared to the traditional approach.
The traditional top-down strategy approach only appears to be a speedy process. But just think about the fact that 67% of traditional strategic plans fail.
With Open Strategy, there is no need to try to sell a strategy because a wide view of management, staff, partners and clients have had some part in it. Staff have psychological ownership of it.
6) It is not a PR stunt
Open Strategy cannot be a tokenistic practice. If that’s the case, it will backfire.
Open Strategy needs to be an inherent mindset and culture within the leadership of an organisation. Any attempts to take an Open Strategy approach without a fundamental shift in mindset will be unproductive.
7) Open Strategy is not always the approach to use
Open Strategy is not some sort of silver bullet that should be applied everywhere. There are certain scenarios where Open Strategy may not be the best approach to take.
Take the pandemic, for example. Some decisions needed to be made very quickly, without the opportunity to involve broad perspectives. Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic in the very initial stages, most organisations did not have outside perspectives to draw on.
8) Open Strategy does not treat staff like ‘Choiceless Doers’
As Roger Martin highlights in his recent book A New Way to Think, he articulates that if we think staff and management just want to be told what to do, so they blindly execute like ‘Choiceless Doers’, we might be in for a bit of a surprise.
The world has changed. Organisations, businesses and society have changed. The top-down approach is now ineffective and unresourceful.
So, what then IS Open Strategy?
Open Strategy is about actively involving people outside top management in the strategy process.
This can include front-line staff and other management who are outside the top exec team.
It should also include people outside the organisation’s ‘four walls’ including – customers, partners and suppliers.
If you’d like to find out more about Open Strategy or start to apply Open Strategy, check out our Strategy Assessment here!
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