What Sailing a Boat has to do with Strategy Management

What is Strategy Management?

Often clients ask me to help them with their strategic planning when in fact what they really should be doing is strategy management.

Ok, so what is the difference you ask? Strategic planning is typically linear in process and episodic in timing. Meaning an organization will once a year go through a process of doing an environmental scan, maybe reaffirming the vision and mission, determining the objectives for the coming year and then maybe setting measures and targets. Strategy management on the other hand is continual, dynamic and iterative with four key “gears” that interact with each other. As one gear moves it can create movement in any one of the other gears.

Gears of Strategy Management

Tekara Gears of Mgmt
Thinking Gear
  • This involves the continual assessment of the strategic context (internal & external) in which your organization operates to understand the critical implications to your organization.
Planning Gear
  • This involves mapping the organizational strategy, setting direction & KPIs and then cascading through the organization to operationalize the strategy.
Execution Gear
  • This involves aligning and optimizing the organizational infrastructure, systems, processes and culture to the strategic direction.
Tracking Gear
  • This involves the ongoing performance management and course corrections needed. It is basically about asking two distinct questions. “Are we doing what we said we were going to do?”, and “Is what we said we are going to do still appropriate moving forward?”.

A Sailing Analogy

If we use sailing as an analogy, you wouldn’t sail across the Pacific Ocean (i.e. the vision/mission) by assessing the weather (i.e. doing an environmental scan), plotting a course ( i.e. creating the strategic plan), setting the auto pilot (i.e. executing the plan) and then sitting back to enjoy a fruity drink, would you?

No. You would do all the above initially, but then be continually assessing watching for changes in short and long term conditions (i.e. the “thinking gear”), adjusting the course due to changes in performance or conditions (i.e. the “planning gear”), trimming sails to obtain optimal performance (i.e. the “execution gear”) and assessing sailing and crew performance (i.e. the “tracking gear).
Stay tuned for future blogs where I will go into more detail for each of the gears and how to shift between smoothly.

Your Turn

Have you seen these gears of strategy management at work in your organization? Are you continually checking the course and conditions, making adjustments to your organization’s strategy as you go?

Please share your experiences and feedback in the comments below!
Tom Dent