Strategic Choices

Developing strategies, of course, requires domain knowledge, analytical skills, and a capability to make significant choices that drive organizational performance. This involves making difficult trade-offs in a complex environment under uncertain conditions, and these choices are necessarily controversial.19 If the correct choices were obvious, all organizations would be successful. Albert Einstein is said to have defined insanity as doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Vision statements of companies are often trite and full of platitudes, generic and exchangeable, not controversial, and hence, not strategic! This is also true, maybe even truer, of public organizations, which often loudly proclaim politically correct platitudes. Successful organizations, private and public, go beyond these platitudinous vision statements to make real strategic choices.

An effective strategic planning process must be capable of dealing with controversy and the inherent conflict that arises. Given the complexity of the choices, managers may come to different conclusions based on their diverse perspectives, backgrounds, competencies, and access to information. The best way to deal with this issue is to make the strategic planning process as participative, explicit, and transparent as possible. This is an idealistic view of the process and it will never be so perfect due to hidden assumptions and biases, vested interests, and personal agendas. The challenge is to at least move in that direction.

Confronting differences is the key. We need to bring conflict out into the open. This is how wise trade-offs among competing alternatives can be made. Intellectual debate among managers with divergent views is a vital source of creative and innovative solutions within the organization. Conflict is the source of creativity; dissent is the source of learning. Conflict, of course, needs to be managed such that it is constructive and intellectual, as opposed to personal, politicized, and destructive. Organizations, whether public or private, structured in rigid, tiered bureaucracies suppress conflict rather than mange conflict constructively.

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