November 2014 | byMichael Birshan, Emma Gibbs, and Kurt Strovink
This is a critical study and strongly suggest you read the whole article.
Many companies have an executive to guide their strategies. The discipline’s professionalization, which began in earnest in the 1980s as it evolved from the chief executive’s domain into a core corporate function, prompted the creation of heads of strategy, strategic-planning directors, and, more recently, chief strategy officers (CSOs). Who better than a professional strategist to help meet the big new uncertainties of the 21st century?
Yet today’s unpredictable environment is utterly incompatible with what, historically, has been one of the chief responsibilities of many strategists: leading the annual strategic-planning process. While nothing new, the weaknesses of traditional strategic planning—characterized by a lockstep march toward a series of deliverables and review meetings according to a rigid annual calendar—have been amplified by the importance of agility in a rapidly changing world...
…Our research also supports one of our major observations about what it takes to innovate in the development and delivery of strategy: over and over, we’ve seen that the chief strategists best at driving more dynamic approaches have a professional credibility that extends well beyond a traditional process-facilitation role. At the same time, we’ve seen tremendous diversity in the characteristics of effective strategists. In a quest for greater precision, we applied statistical cluster analysis to the 13 facets that chief strategists responding to our survey described as most important to their efforts. The analysis yielded five clusters in which the strategist’s role becomes more than the sum of its parts
These strategists, 40 percent of the executives we surveyed, make the most of their talent for using fact-based analysis to spot industry shifts and to understand their own companies’ sources of competitive advantage as a foundation for clear, differentiated strategies. Organic growth is a core concern, and driving business performance to meet tough organic targets is a critical part of the architect’s role.
An additional 20 percent of CSOs surveyed fall into a mobilizer role, developing the strategic muscle of their companies, building capabilities, and delivering special projects. Mobilizers play critical leadership roles in company-wide efforts to build what one CEO in an operationally intensive industry describes as a “higher organizational IQ on strategy.”
A key strength of visionaries (14 percent of respondents) is trend forecasting, which at its simplest involves scanning the landscape for trends and shocks that may create opportunities or risks for the business. The best visionaries are using the advent of big data to create unique perspectives on where the next growth pocket will come from and, specifically, on what will be needed to serve it
Surveyors are the 14 percent of strategists who define themselves by spotting potential disruptions and quickly advising their businesses on the impact and opportunity such shifts could produce. These are the people with their eyes on the furthest horizon.