New SPS Fellow Stephen Pitt-Walker has more than 20 years of strategic advisory, consulting practice and programme management experience across many industry sectors. He is currently an independent consultant working in Australia and managing director of Pitt-Walker Solutions.
Why is the professionalisation of strategy so important?
I am pleased to see a lot of emphasis placed on strategy at the moment, but it needs to be recognised as a professional sphere in its own right. Part of the problem is that the understanding of strategy is so given to misinterpretation. I wouldn’t like to see it bounded by definition, but I would like to see it given more structure. At the moment it’s a case of ‘you know when you see it’.
What are the key challenges at the moment?
The big issues are change, transition, and rapid growth in a rapidly-changing landscape. Another major challenge is that often businesses lack strategy: there are a lot of reactive measures being implemented and organisations being non-strategic. People get scared and don’t want to lock themselves into a strategy, so they just react to what is going on around them on an ad-hoc basis. Flexibility is not an anathema to strategy: you can set your goals and objectives, but remain flexible and adaptive in a tactical way. People don’t understand that.
Do the same tools and approaches still work in a new environment?
The models and tools remain relevant, whether you’re talking about an organisational capability modelling tool or Porter’s 5 Forces or whatever. The sophistication comes in selecting the tool that’s appropriate to the challenge and the situation. A knowledge of strategy, education and innate strategic understanding are the factors that determine the organisation’s ability to do that.