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The Catch 22 of Strategy

The Catch 22 of Strategy

Monday November 13, 2017,

3 min Read

The success of any strategy execution relies largely on managing the underlying tensions that are nothing but parallel contradictions – paradoxes that pull in two opposite directions. In business, such contradictions always prevail and persist. 

Execution of strategy gets extremely noisy at times - generating a lot of communications, calculations and burning escalations to other lines-of-business. 

But the real challenge lies in skillful balancing of these situations which often are the biggest blocks on the road to successful strategy execution.


Progressive vision Vs Aggressive targets: 

An inspiring vision is imperative for sparking the commitment of people to embrace change. Communicating the need for change, the final state after the change and the tensions that will accompany the strategic execution is equally important.

Explain them about the strategic tensions and how strategy and execution need to work together with the tension to make the experience real.

Put aggressive targets and provide direction to challenge people. This will not only make people aware of the pre-requisites to achieve long-term goals but will also prepare them for meeting tensions upfront.

Authority Vs Autonomy in decision making: 

Empowering people with a sense of ownership that can influence change tends to make them work hard, contribute more ideas and thus value-add in the overall process. Its flip side being – various passionate groups dashing around in multiple, uncoordinated tracks resulting in off-tracking and delay from the initial set of decisions and execution plan.

No doubt, ‘strategic tensions are dynamic- they change while execution’ but it typically circles around:

- The right type of conversation about the strategy with the team,

- The quality of decision making and

- The excellence of execution

Expanding Capabilities Vs Delivering Results: 

We all have faced it - sometimes the pressure or tension related to delivery of immediate results are so intense that we fake existing capabilities and compromise on the overall quality of the deliverables. But working on these expanding competencies along with delivering short-term high-quality results is yet another challenge.

Such tensions help us to ‘test our vision-strategy’ and the overall approach in organizational context. So, if you have pressures that come from the outside world, then your strategy and its implementation plan must be able to monitor those external tensions and should be able to balance them.

Control Vs Creativity:

‘Control’ is usually inversely proportional to ‘Creativity’ and one of the hardest tensions to balance in business. We all fear that if creativity is encouraged, control and discipline of the organization will go for a toss. But the truth is uninterrupted creativity leads to unforeseen results and insights.

Getting good strategy executed often calls for trade-offs between innovation and delivering short-term results. But organizations that can balance the existing deliverables while flourishing the mind bugs of its employees are far ahead in implementing successful strategies that persist for long.

Rightly, put by Einstein – 

‘The ability of a person to hold two contradictory ideas in their head and still function, is the sign of a genius’

So, leave no excuse – look at the contradictory ideas as a ‘constructive strategic tension’.

You will never find a perfect balance between strategic tensions; some days will require greater emphasis on execution while other days will profoundly focus on future-oriented strategic planning. But if you cautiously handle, maintain and balance these tensions, very soon you’ll navigate your business towards the future of your dreams.