However, while the terminology may have changed, the actual problem we are trying to solve has not. In fact, in the enterprise, we have been struggling with the same strategic product challenges and seeking the same tangible business outcomes for years.
Don’t believe me? As I was doing research for this article, I came across many articles that discuss similar challenges. One of the most striking, an article titled “Strategic Intent” by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad, which was originally published in Harvard Business Review in 1989, discusses strategic intent in depth and describes some of the same business problems facing large-scale enterprises of that time. While some of those companies are still around, others are mere shells of their former formidable selves. The authors, Hamel and Prahalad, are the same folks who created the concept of core competencies in relation to business.
Many companies are failing when it comes to being strategic. Instead of really looking at their core competencies, these companies feel the pressure to do too much and, thus, expend tremendous amounts of resources, with the end result of being exactly like their competitors. While imitation is a sincere form of flattery, it’s hardly a competitive advantage. Not only do competitors see through the imitation, increasingly savvy consumers do, too. By always struggling to keep up with the competition, an organization never succeeds at achieving its own strategic goals. In the experience-design world, we see this all the time with user-interface design. Take a look around. There is a lot of sameness out there today, with everything following the same templates. Much of what passes for design these days is not really design but execution.
It was almost 30 years ago when the article “Strategic Intent” was written, and we are still struggling with basically the same business problems, as anyone who works for a medium to large enterprise can attest. Although thought leaders typically tout strategic planning as a way of becoming more future oriented, for most organizations, strategic intent is more about solving the problems companies face today rather than considering how to ensure they are driving toward tomorrow’s opportunities.
Large organizations experience many challenges with innovation. All too often, the managers and supervisors responsible for executing such strategic initiatives are not empowered to look beyond one or two quarters at best. Thus, the pursuit of very tactical concerns stymies their ability to truly lead an organization to achieve the strategic goals it has set out for itself. As a result, the concept of innovation fails to pervade the entire enterprise. Instead of companies taking a holistic approach to innovation, it’s something they often give to small teams to do. What we really need is organizational leadership that can harness the diverse abilities of various teams to collectively address an organization’s strategic initiatives and deliver optimal outcomes that ensure the company is poised for success. Very few organizations, regardless of their size, are able to do this effectively.