This post is fighting talk to a blog with the title and background of this one. Having a strategy – or at least having a document called a strategy – is an indication of institutional failure: once you get to the stage of having to pay people to describe the organisation to itself and to work out how the pieces fit together, something is already going badly wrong.
At its worst, strategy becomes about attempts to engineer reality to fit a top down narrative through the medium of graphs. … So don’t write strategies. At best they give institutions the time they need to mobilise against the change you want to create
Instead, strategists should go and do something more useful, more concrete, with a much better chance of making real improvements happen.
And yet. The answer to the co-ordination problem can’t in the short term (and the short term is likely to be pretty long) be to fragment organisations to the point where co-ordination is not needed. Even if that were practically and politically feasible, it might just redraw the boundaries of Coasian space leaving the underlying co-ordination problem unchanged, at the cost of sustained distraction from the real purpose. It’s not obvious how small an organisation has to be (or even whether smallness is the key factor) to avoid needing something you might want to call a strategy.
So perhaps the distinction is not that organisations shouldn’t need a strategy, it is that that need shouldn’t degenerate into the endless production of strategies as a self-perpetuating industry. That takes me back to Sophie Dennis’s approach, and in particular to her definition of strategy:
Strategy is a coherent plan to achieve a goal that will lead to significant positive change
That’s something which should have real value – without there needing to be a graph in sight. I’d be pretty confident that Simon has got one of those.