energizing breakthrough performance

Your Choice: Front Windshield or Rear-View Mirror?

Author: ; Published: Dec 9, 2011; Category: Strategic Planning; Tags: None; No Comments»

Peter Drucker said it best, “Plans are nothing until they degenerate into work.”   Stated differently, plan the work and work the plan.  Dwight Eisenhower asserted “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Pursuant to these core principles, Strategic Futures performs strategic planning assignments to further creative collaboration among participants who will be active and accountable in actually implementing the plan. As consultants, we probe, provoke and challenge to see new possibilities using opportunity-centered visioning and strategic thinking. Our approach to strategic planning is compatible with Enterprise Risk Management but there are several key distinctions.

 

Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) is a risk-based approach to managing an enterprise, whose ancestry reaches back several decades to include Statistical Process Control (SPC), quality circles, Total Quality Management (TQM), and ISO standards.  ERM adherents, like their TQM brethren before them, often make sweeping, potentially dangerous claims that ERM is your “silver bullet” – it’s all you need to manage successfully. (Manage, perhaps although not necessarily lead). A few decades ago, this school of thought preached similarly that “TQM is all you need.”  During the TQM heyday, Motorola was contemplating deeply its TQM navel; Motorola was educating other companies as to its TQM theology, when the digital revolution passed it by like a speeding train. Whoops! Drinking the kool-aid rather than thinking ahead, Motorola had some serious catching up to do. 

 

Successful organizations align and balance strategy, systems and structure around their mission and customers. ERM is an excellent tool and an essential “system” in the triad of strategy, systems and structure. However, systems alone do not a thriving organization make. Systems are not strategy although they may masquerade as such.

 

It’s no surprise that incessant focus on risk cultivates a deeply risk-averse culture and puts it on steroids, painting creativity and change into a narrow corner. Why is that?  A risk-averse culture requires complete certainty in all things, much the way government bureaucracies operate — slowly and uncompetitively.  Staff get the message that rewards and recognition are based solely on the degree to which risks were mitigated.  They behave accordingly. Creative visioning and bold strategic thinking become heretical in extreme cases. Ask yourself: How would Steve Jobs fare in a zealous ERM culture?  

 

Don’t get me wrong: ERM and related approaches are valuable tools when used as part of a balanced portfolio rather than as a silver bullet.  Risk-based and risk-averse thinking has its place and time, used best when balanced with a creative, opportunity-driven strategic thinking process. Unleash the strategic thinking process first and don’t hobble it unduly. Thereafter, develop and apply your ERM templates interactively to make strategic choices and establish accountable dashboards.

 

Strategic planning and ERM are not mutually exclusive; they should complement one another. You wouldn’t drive without a front windshield, nor without your rear-view mirror. You need both to navigate successfully particularly when traffic is thick, fast, and erratic, as it is in these turbulent times.

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