Doug Ross is managing director of consultancy Square Peg International and visiting fellow at the faculty of Business and Law at Kingston University. He was previously global chairman of the Strategic Leadership Forum and a former partner in the Human Capital Group at Watson Wyatt.
Why is the SPS Fellowship important to you?
It’s important that strategy is recognised as a key function for organisations and as an integrating force across the business. Recognising Fellows of the SPS brings to light the need for and engagement of people with relevant expertise and emphasises the seriousness of the role.
The global community of interest around strategic leadership and planning has not been straightforward. In the US it began with The National Society for Business Budgeting in 1963. After some name changes and mergers over the years it became the Strategic Leadership Forum (SLF) in 1995. I was global chairman of this organisation at this point in its development. The SLF maintained its network of local chapters, but contracted its national oversight with the Chicago-based association-management firm, Bostrom & Associates.
In 1999, the national organisation, to everyone’s surprise, declared bankruptcy. This left the local chapters to continue on their own or to cease operations. The Toronto Chapter now carries on as the Toronto Society for Strategic Management and a sister organisation runs on the west coast of the US. However, there is a need for international strategists to have a forum in which to meet and share ideas and the SPS has an essential role to play.
How important is the increasing professionalisation of strategy?
The more complexity that enters the operational environment – from the multiplicity of stakeholders to the issues brought by globalisation and technology – the more vital strategy and planning becomes.
It’s essential that it is someone’s job to take time out just to think, to look outside of the organisation and benchmark not just their industry but other industries that they might want to model, to look at the potential futures that could come true as a result of the decisions that they are making today and understand the implications of maintaining the status quo or changing.
What are the key strategic challenges you are dealing with at the moment?
As a Canadian living in Europe and working with organisations around the world, I have an international view. On that basis we are dealing with massive change and mega shifts in global world trends, rather than simply domestic issues. When you talk about strategic challenge in a room with Syrian, Liberian, Pakistani and Egyptian professionals, it takes on a very different meaning.
Common themes include cultural barriers to change both across countries and within impacted organisations, and the importance of clarity of communications. This is particularly the case in environments where confidentiality is key (such as a global acquisition or product launch that no one can know about) but you still have to have the engagement of key players.
What developments in strategic planning particularly interest you?
I am interested in the trend towards the elimination of the annual planning process and the emergence of good rolling plans that are agile, fast moving and are quick to learn, change and test. I am also working on the interface with leadership – strategic leadership. Great leadership without good plans means a directionless organisation and great plans with ineffective leadership mean that they sit on the shelf and gather dust: organisations need both if they are to compete in an increasingly challenging business environment.
NB: Fellowship application is now available online, for more information please click here.