Learning and change are two themes that run through the career of new SPS Trustee, Colin Tuckwell.
Initially a finance professional – banking and accountancy – Tuckwell has been a leader and pioneer in the practice of strategic management ever since graduating with leading grades from the Cranfield School of Management in 1980. He says that business school broadened his outlook more than he anticipated, and the finance director roles that were his aspiration going in were abandoned for wider strategic experience.
Tuckwell first joined Willis Faber as Head of Strategic Planning, an organisation then recently floated on the London Stock Exchange and in the FTSE 100 of the day. “It was a change leadership role, broadening the approach to business to include analysis and overt strategic thinking in the management and development of the organisation,” he says. The de-centralised environment sharpened his influencing skills, which he now uses to guide ambitious business leaders in the strategic development of their business.
Tuckwell first joined SPS in the early 1980s. “I wanted to network with others involved with strategic planning in organisations, share experiences, learn how to improve what I was leading in my own company,” he says.
This is not currently a significant part of SPS activity, notwithstanding the very encouraging recent success of the online community, but “it will return, and pretty soon”, says Tuckwell, who has been asked to lead the SPS Board in considering how its services to businesses and strategy practitioners should develop.
Few are better placed for such a role – as UK and Global Region Strategic Change Stream leader at Deloitte and Watson Wyatt (Towers Watson), respectively, he helped guide senior management teams and boards through many highly demanding programmes of corporate and personal development. But, after a highly successful line management and strategic consulting career, why is he again involving himself in SPS? “Easy”, he says – the SPS’s ‘Extended Mission’. “I’m at a stage when it’s relatively easy to give pro-bono time to a charity I believe in. SPS has adopted under Ian McDonald Wood’s Chairmanship the very challenging and highly compelling goal of establishing strategy as a profession.”
Working in strategic management for over 30 years, Tuckwell believes it brings together and synthesises all the skills and capability within an organisation, both to direct day-to-day operations, and to define and deliver positioning and development for the future, ensuring sustainability. “It’s the most sophisticated of management disciplines, the only one that brings together other professional disciplines, and gives them context and leadership for their business contribution.”
Yet those seeking to deploy these skills and lead organisations at the highest levels have no collective professional voice, and are not required to undertake any formal, defined learning as part of their personal development. “Do we let accountants, brain surgeons or aircraft pilots do their jobs without rigorous professional development?” asks Tuckwell.
He believes all board members of quoted businesses should be mandated to undertake formal learning in strategic management. “How can a board be anywhere near fully effective if there are people at that level who do not have the conceptual and empirical knowledge and linguistics of strategic leadership?” To fill the vacuum, the developing profession of strategic management will cover strategic leadership and corporate governance, as well as strategy development and its implementation, Tuckwell confirms.
He sees his generation as privileged and argues that they have a duty to give something back to subsequent generations. “We were the first Brits to get a formal education in strategic business management. Those of us with the experience, skills and capability to influence the future can ensure that the upcoming generations of people educated in strategic management make increasingly telling contributions to business and society as a whole. The challenges we all face demand it.”
Tuckwell is encouraged by those beginning to support the SPS. “We have leading academics helping use to define the body of knowledge the strategy profession should see as core,” he explains, noting that advocates and new SPS directors from among top business professionals are beginning to contribute to the development of the new profession. “The snowball is rolling. SPS Executive Officer Barnett is doing a great job pushing us forward.”
There are already around 10 Strategy Clubs in the early stages at business schools, including at Tuckwell’s almer mata, Cranfield. He expects many more in the next two years. Two years is his broad thinking on how long the initial phase of SPS ‘Extended Mission’ will take to fully accomplish. “I’ve told Ian I’ll certainly commit two years”. And after that? “I always make contributions, learn from them and be ready to move on – not blocking people coming on behind. However this agenda is enormous, and the value we might add in ensuring senior business people have developed the level of sophisticated skills needed in their roles would be huge.”
He expects the new SPS business model to be in place during the second half of 2012, supported by leading advocates. There is a sense that, if Tuckwell believes the SPS can strongly extend learning and skills development, lead major change in business thinking and add a lot of value, he might be around for longer than the next couple of years.