Book Review: Open Strategy: Mastering Disturbances Outside General Management
We all know the world is going through turbulent times. Yet the multi-billion dollar question is how to turn these challenges into vitamins and win despite these disruptive realities? Thus, it is relevant to share actionable insights to help leaders thrive, despite the disruptive and unstable operating environment.
I’m qualified to point leaders to a collection of valuable insights for success, given my experience engaging with over 4,000 leaders and hundreds of organizations through TEXEM, a company I founded 12 years ago. .
From Volkswagen to Dunlop, from Nigerian Airways to NITEL and NEPA, one could say that what they all have in common, aside from extinction, are bad strategies and many failed change initiatives. Therefore, it is essential to celebrate an example of a book that inspires leaders to optimize their core competencies and their ability to win by successfully exploiting an open strategy.
It can be said that many companies and public sector organizations often struggle with adopting a strategy because they do not understand the art of developing and implementing a good strategy. Although most of them understand the importance of having strategies, it is necessary to have a clear strategic direction that guides the process. Simply put, many organizations have strategies, but the process of making them work is not an easy task.
Specifically, understanding what a strategy is, developing it, and implementing it differentiates those who succeed from those who fail. Unfortunately, only a few succeed, as research has shown that between 50-90% of strategies fail.
As a leader, having the right resources that provide strategy guidance is one way to improve performance. However, while there are many books labeled as the best strategy books, not all of them provide the right advice on developing and implementing strategies. As such, leaders and anyone who wants to master strategy are always advised to make the right call.
One of the books that is already gaining popularity in the business world is Open Strategy: Mastering Disruption from Outside the C-Suite, written by Christian Stadler, Julia Hautz, Kurt Matzler and Stephan Friedrich von den Eichen (MIT Press, 2021) .
In this book, four renowned professors share their experience on the art of tapping into the power of people both when developing and implementing a company’s strategy. Their idea for writing the book is to guide leaders on developing the right strategies informed by diverse perspectives. They argue that developing a strategy is not a one-time exercise, but rather a process that takes time.
More importantly, it must incorporate ideas from all stakeholders, including employees and senior management of the company. In the words of these leading scholars, strategy development “should generate ideas, openly and effectively, as opposed to the traditional closed approach that most organizations use.”
Simply put, the process must take into account the ideas of most, if not all, within the organization.
The book encourages the transition from strategic development behind closed doors to an open and well-designed approach. The idea here is that in the traditional approach, leaders or executives would often have a little trouble coming up with imaginative ideas on their own. Thus, it becomes quite easy to probe and get the right ideas with an open strategy. How is it possible ? Well, in an open strategy, every stakeholder, especially frontline employees, has the opportunity to share their ideas.
By doing so, it becomes easy to develop the appropriate and more achievable strategies that can propel the organization to higher levels of success. So how does the book compare to other seminal books? Like Mintzberg’s concept of emergent strategy as articulated in readings of the strategy process? While they both argue that in reality the strategy actually implemented by organizations consists of a combination of traditionally planned corporate strategy and strategy that has occurred due to the actions of the early career staff lower in the organization.
In this way, small adaptations to day-to-day organizational practices could lead to larger strategic changes. However, this book presents Mintzberg’s insights advanced and made more actionable by giving pragmatic examples of organizations that have done so and how it might work in practice.
In addition, the examples come from various organizations and regions of the world. Therefore, there are examples that could be applied regardless of where in the world you are or where your organization is located. Moreover, it is different from others, such as Freeman’s Stakeholder Theory or Porter’s Five Forces, as it incorporates critical leadership concepts around self-awareness, vulnerability, groupthink, and leadership. a growth mindset.
However, the authors of Open Strategy caution that leaders and anyone else who adopts their approach should not confuse open strategy with a beggar-thy-neighbour strategy. They argue that while the process should be open, there are limits to when, how, and how open the process should be. For example, the book encourages the use of small representative groups. This makes it easier to engage, participate fully and come up with good ideas. But that’s not all.
Another caution shared by highly experienced and successful authors is that readers should not confuse openness with sharing information that should be confidential. The point here is that while process transparency is essential, an organization’s confidential process should not be compromised.
Overall, the book presents an insightful and authentic approach to strategizing. The authors are eminent scholars from world-renowned institutions. Additionally, with their rich background in strategic leadership, there is hope that the book will inspire leaders to achieve lasting success.
Importantly, this fantastic, well-articulated book aptly captures the synthesis of innovation and strategy for sustainable success in a world characterized by the urgent need to assess the organization’s core competencies in a competition and an increasingly rapid and intense digital ecosystem. It clearly articulates how to make the best choices, take the right actions, and position the organization for success. This book will help strategic leaders learn to avoid confusion, complacency, denial and to be in a state of continuous renewal.
Currently, the nation and the world are experiencing a “trideca lema” (thirteen and not two as in dilemmas), making the operating context of organizations more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
Thirteen of the many challenges facing organizations today include; the unprecedented global pandemic caused by the new coronavirus which has affected all countries of the world, the high level of insecurity and the high level of inflation. Some others include supply chain disruption, new cybersecurity threats, failing organizational models, and how to effectively inspire a remote workforce. The others are weak national cohesion, dramatic currency fluctuations, negative real GDP and, by extension, weak customer demand, declining government and business revenues, higher costs, low staff morale and citizens and declining productivity.
These insightful and impactful examples of organizations that have successfully adopted and implemented an open strategy from insights gleaned outside of the C-Suite, as documented in this book, could ultimately position your organization on the path to future success. Notably, the open strategy book should inspire all leaders and aspiring pioneers in their quest to achieve lasting progress in nation building. Therefore, this example should provide essential motivation and valuable insight for all business leaders and decision makers to not give up or get distracted, no matter how difficult the task or the bleak outlook.
Alim Abubakre, PhD, Fellow of the UK Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs and Senior Fellow of the Academy of Higher Education, is founder and non-executive chairman of UK-based TEXEM, which has trained over of 4,000 executives in the UK and Africa. over the past twelve years. He is an entrepreneur with an unparalleled passion for Africa.
Dr Alim is an academic and sits on the advisory board of the London Business School Africa Society. In 2010 he was selected as one of Virgin Media’s Top 100 Emerging Entrepreneurs in the UK. He accompanied the Lord Mayor of London to his entourage in Nigeria in 2015.