Making Nice Technique: Arguing for Organizational Benefit
by Jesper B. Sørensen and Glenn R. Carroll, Columbia College Press, 2021
There isn’t any scarcity of theories relating to the correct foundation for a profitable company technique. You possibly can set sail on blue oceans with W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, hone core competences with C.Ok. Prahalad and Gary Hamel, and get aggressive with Michael Porter, to name out just some of the trendy choices. However how do you remodel the theories into a singular technique able to driving your organization’s long-term success?
That is the query Stanford enterprise faculty professors Jesper Sørensen and Glenn Carroll tackle in Making Nice Technique. It’s a e-book about strategic due diligence. And it fills an essential hole within the literature by caring not a whit about an organization’s technique per se, however slightly focusing completely on how rigorously that technique has been formulated and the way completely it has been vetted.
Towards this finish, Sørensen and Carroll outline technique as a logical argument that coherently articulates “how the agency’s assets and actions mix with exterior situations to permit it to create and seize worth.” They additional assert that “the event, communication, and upkeep of a technique argument is greatest achieved by means of an open means of truly arguing throughout the group, partaking in productive debate.”
Sørensen and Carroll discover that in lots of corporations this means of argumentation is both altogether lacking or poorly performed. As an alternative of utilizing logical argument, choices about technique are sometimes dictated by probably the most highly effective individuals within the room. Or, when they’re made extra democratically, they’re chosen in a rigged or in any other case flawed method. The authors’ insights assist clarify the findings of a 2019 survey by Technique&, PwC’s technique consulting group, during which solely 37 p.c of 6,000 government respondents stated that their firm had a well-defined technique, and solely 35 p.c believed their firm’s technique would result in success.
Making Nice Technique is devoted to the instruments for — and nuts and bolts of — making and making use of a technique argument. The instruments are these of the logician and thinker, that are (in more and more uncommon cases) taught to undergraduates in liberal arts however largely uncared for in enterprise faculties, which often depend on enterprise case evaluation to show technique. “We advocate a unique mentality for fascinated with technique, one which celebrates the worth of disciplined reasoning and locations constructive argumentation on the heart of the strategic course of,” write Sørensen and Carroll. “To assist flip this mentality into apply, we provide a versatile system of three core actions: (1) iterative visualization, (2) logical formalization, and (3) constructive engagement and debate with others.”
We advocate a unique mentality for fascinated with technique, one which celebrates the worth of disciplined reasoning and locations constructive argumentation on the heart of the strategic course of.”
Iterative visualization is achieved by creating a technique map, which tracks a proposed technique’s causal path backward from its desired consequence to the components required to make it occur. The authors illustrate this course of by producing a technique map based mostly on statements about Walmart’s low-cost mannequin, which enabled the retailer to draw clients and vanquish opponents within the pre-digital economic system. Working backward from the specified consequence of low prices, they map two of its enablers: operational efficiencies and a bargaining benefit over suppliers. In flip, they enumerate the enablers of these enablers, which for bargaining embody high-volume buying, negotiating prowess, and personal labels. And so forth.
A technique map is simply step one in making a technique argument. “At this stage,” Sørensen and Carroll clarify, “these statements are simply unfounded claims within the technique argument, and their veracity and significance have but to be demonstrated.” That work begins within the second set of actions — logical formalization.
Logical formalization entails testing the validity and soundness of the premises underlying the statements in a technique map. Right here the authors level to the aggressive responses — or lack thereof — from corporations like Nokia when Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. The cellphone incumbents evaluated the iPhone’s name reliability and high quality and concluded the brand new gadget merely wasn’t ok to pose a aggressive menace, not to mention an existential one. However they didn’t problem their very own argument and its assumptions. Because it turned out, the standard of cellphone calls didn’t matter a lot given the iPhone’s superior design and performance. “Incomplete arguments can carry plenty of weight in strategic debates,” warn the authors. “That’s as a result of they attraction to implicit premises within the minds of the listener[s].”
The third set of actions — constructive engagement and debate — is aimed toward socializing the technique argument. Socialization surfaces new challenges and options that enhance technique choices, builds buy-in, and begins to maneuver a technique towards execution. The important thing concepts listed here are to embrace, slightly than keep away from, argument and to argue in a constructive manner — avoiding the sorts of dysfunctional debates that solely produce divisiveness and resistance. “Vigorous argument needs to be inspired and celebrated, offered that persons are arguing constructively, not arguing blue,” Sørensen and Carroll write. “Arguing blue is about utilizing each trick within the e-book to advance your perspective, deploying no matter powers of intimidation and persuasion you’ve got at your disposal.”
An organization’s cultural norms play a big function in its skill to argue constructively. The authors name out Intel’s “disagree and commit” norm as an exemplar on this regard. Intel managers are anticipated to problem and object whereas a call is being made. However as soon as it’s made, they’re anticipated to assist it wholeheartedly.
Making Nice Technique doesn’t cease there. It goes on to explain how technique arguments apply in situations of excessive uncertainty, how they match into strategic planning processes, and find out how to talk them internally and externally, in addition to find out how to elaborate on them — constructing them out and drilling down into them. If you wish to higher perceive find out how to make the leap from an summary strategic imaginative and prescient to an executable strategic plan, this e-book needs to be in your studying checklist.