Business people increasingly ask “how can we make corporate strategy in such a volatile world?” An answer to the question requires us to take a more holistic approach to corporate strategy and company policy than we conventionally do when considering the challenges facing top management teams. Conventional strategy divides conveniently into three parts, like Caesar’s description of Gaul: first, the development and deployment of resources, competences and capabilities of the firm; second, dynamics and shifts in the firm’s market positions caused by customers and competition and by the goals, policies and actions of governments; and third, what both inquiries hold for the firm’s future. What is going on inside the corporation, within its value chain and its wider business ecosystem and in its existing and emergent markets, are certainly major drivers of corporate strategy. But corporate strategies have to be elaborated, and opportunities and risks assessed in full recognition of the dynamics at work in a world undergoing complex transformation. In this chapter, we take the position that strategy and policy must be seen as complementary because they provide a different lens to look on the future as the holism through which current resources in the firm are developed and allocated. In a static presentation of our theme – and where time is absent – we may say that business leaders need to develop a deeper understanding of the issues underpinning what we call the politics, markets and business triangle. We start with time as the key variable to consider, and sketch a stylized survey of how corporate strategy thinking has evolved, with a view to teasing out the key tensions that businesses encounter when operating in a semi-integrated world market and polity. We then look closer at the relation of corporate policies to the diversity of states, discuss the evolution of the global state and market system, and spell out some of the key challenges facing corporate leaders making strategies and policies to both shape and understand the future. This should condition their allocation of current scarce resources. The key parameter of risk for top management is by definition the exigency of dealing with a future about which little is known, but where some things can be learnt.
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