Strategy

Corporate theatre or real strategy?

5 ways to tell you’re doing corporate theatre

There’s a common belief that strategy happens at management level, leaving everybody else to take care of the execution. The reality is that execution involves a series of key choices that are just as important as the strategic choices – leading to a better design and a better chance of success.

Corporate theatre or real strategy?

‘Excellence in execution’ tops the list of challenges facing global CEOs year after year. It seems like an obvious concern, but the real issue is coming up with better answers to help bridge the gap between strategy and impact.

A good starting point is to evaluate the way in which your company thinks about strategy and execution, because this is ultimately reflected in the implementation. Given that less than 33% of strategies and must-wins deliver the expected impact, this is definitely an area that needs a closer look.

One overarching and limiting belief is that strategy and execution are two separate distinct activities. This often leads to a situation where strategy only takes place at management level and the execution lands at the feet of the rest of the organisation as they settle down to watch the obligatory PowerPoint presentation.

A lack of organisational engagement and slow and inadequate ‘execution’ follow. But it is a lack understanding of what strategy is that is the original sin.

Strategy stuck on repeat

Over the last 20 years, we’ve been part of hundreds of ‘strategy processes’. Some of them with real transformative impact and others that were more like ‘corporate theatre’. Going through the motions of what you ‘always do’. Everyone playing their part. Beautiful PowerPoint slides. But as the curtain closes, you’re left with a lot of blank faces in the audience.

Building on our last post, ‘5 things we should consider when strategising’, we’ve put together a list of the typical mistakes companies make that can lead to corporate theatre.

  1. You don’t involve your people. You engage in corporate theatre at the top of the organisation. You make strategic choices without involving and engaging employees with insight – potential ambassadors and those who have a key role in making change happen. Think upfront about whose future the strategy will influence, so you can involve them earlier in the process. You might not feel completely comfortable doing this – but that’s okay.
  2. You don’t make real choices. You engage key employees and leaders in strategy meetings, but don’t make any choices or create any guidance for the organisation. You end up racing around as you try to bridge differences of opinion. Make an effort to frontload key choices and prototype compelling options and choices.
  3. You think extensive data analysis provides great choices. Sifting through a huge data dump to get insights for decision-making is another sign of corporate theatre. You use valuable time and resources without knowing where to focus to create impact. Strategy making should be turned into a creative process of crafting compelling choices, and not just an analytical process of crunching historic data.
  4. You communicate the strategy through a massive ‘sell-in’. You rely on massive PowerPoint presentations to communicate the strategy, without any involvement and reflection on the expected changes in behaviour. Consider, if the ‘new’ really is clear to everyone. Do they understand it? Do they trust you? Do they feel it?
  5. You think execution is the easy part. Another sign of corporate theatre is when companies regard their employees as ‘choiceless doers’ and therefore only communicate what they should do. Try viewing the transformation as a cascade of choices – making every level of the organisation crystallise its own choices.

Think about how these points might impact your own design, and consider putting your strategy through a ‘detox’ to create more impact.

Challenging the conventional

At Implement, we see strategy as the key enabler in a transformational process – when it’s done right. We challenge conventional strategy consulting through a collaborative approach, which engages the organisation and makes people own their key choices. Our approach to strategy is founded on the belief that it is a design rather than a problem to be solved. We drive real transformations and real conversations with real people.

Martin Lyngaa Simonsen
Martin Lyngaa Simonsen
+45 2338 0036