Strategic management – past, present, and future

Feb 12, 2019

Where is strategic management headed? I have shared my views about the past, present, and future of strategic management in dozens of presentations, hundreds of discussions, numerous investment negotiations, and more.

For some reason, I have never put my thinking in simple writing. So here goes.

1. The Past

First, there's the past. The days of yore. The olden times. The once upon a time in strategic management.

Strategy updates in closed-off sessions

This was the time when a corporate or business strategy got updated by the management team in a closed yearly boot camp. At a remote off-site location, of course. Coming out of such a boot camp, the "new" strategy would take the form of a slide deck and a numerical targets spreadsheet to follow.

Limited use of market intelligence

Not surprisingly, true market intelligence – if any – was delivered by a group of consultants or acquired via advisory services just in time for the yearly strategy boot camp.

2. The Present

Then there's the present. The real world. The today.

Culture vs. strategy

As in many other fields, the discipline of strategic management seems polarized, or multipolar even.

Some still stick to the old ways, yearly clocks and boot camps and all. Some completely dismiss strategy, for example by quoting Peter Drucker for saying "culture eats strategy for breakfast".

Well, it does, but it's not supposed to! Even Drucker himself insisted on forward-looking strategic thinking, and he called for a supporting culture.

Today there indeed also are many who really work on insightful strategies. And for cultures! All with their true aim for higher employee engagement and greater competitive advantage, for even higher growth of market capitalization, and for long-term prosperity.

3. The Future

And then there's the future. The time when today seems old-fashioned and slow. The tomorrow.

More collaboration and transparency

I am already seeing a major shift towards the continuous discussion, debate, collaboration, and transparency in strategies and decision-making overall. Also, as the pace of change in any business environment is just getting higher, organizations are adopting futures intelligence and foresight methodologies instead of traditional market research and market intelligence.

Such adoption calls for continuous and crowdsourced horizon scanning, collaborative sense-making, and transparent sharing of new insights. Making sure the new understanding reaches the right places for true impact: strategy processes, innovation projects, R&D, brand management, risk management, and more. Continuous feedback loops from weak signals to decision-making, taking action, and back. Ultimately reaching a state of real-time, agile strategic management.

Seeking new opportunity spaces

And yes, I am seeing the new rise of systematically seeking new opportunity spaces, of insightful strategic positioning, and of strategic competence building. Going from today to tomorrow will bring massive changes for strategic management.

Leadership and corporate cultures will become even more valid as new generations rise to power. Digital tools and artificial intelligence in all their forms will heavily impact the world of strategy. Consulting will be disrupted. There are even early discussions regarding an integrated, perfect strategy machine that would allow for the best possible decisions in real-time.

In summary

Still time before that perfect strategy machine, though. But another thing is for sure as well: the days of yore will not be back. The ones that choose to stick in that world will get eaten by their forward-looking rivals.

These beliefs and insights are something we believe deeply in at FIBRES Online. Collaborative futures intelligence and continuous strategy work is a powerful combination.

Interested in using foresight for better futures intelligence and winning strategies? Read more about FIBRES for strategic foresight.


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Panu Kause is the founder and CEO at FIBRES. Before founding FIBRES, he held several management positions and ran his own foresight and strategy focused consultancy.

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