The 12-13 March SPS Working Conference sponsored by Saïd Business School was attended by 60 delegates including senior strategy practitioners, academics, executives from other professions and strategists from the US Army Corps of Engineers. Delegates hailed from 15 nations, as far afield as Brazil, Qatar, Turkey, the USA and Australia, and had worked in an even greater number of countries.
Ian McDonald Wood, chairman of the SPS, says the delegates were all clearly focused on expanding the benefit of strategy to society and to business. “It was a momentous occasion where strategy professionals from business and academia got together and discussed often passionately the future direction of the SPS,” he adds. “In many respects the event raised as many questions as it provided answers about the role the Society needs to play, so there is work still to do to bring some clarity to some of the key issues. But, there was universal agreement on the merits of professionalising strategy, such that the new strapline – the Society for Professional Strategy – may well shortly supersede the more familiar Strategic Planning Society to reflect a new SPS.”
At a pre-conference dinner on 12 March held at New College Oxford, delegates heard three speakers talk of successes and failures of strategy in private, public and third sectors.
Kim Warren, strategy writer and teaching fellow at London Business School, asked where strategy was during the economic crisis and noted that the downturn cannot be blamed just on bankers. The cumulative effect of bad strategic decisions by companies in all sectors was responsible, he argued.
Paul Hirst of Mazars talked of the success of strategy in the organisation of the 2012 Olympics as a model for the role of strategy in future public sector projects.
Stephen Greenhalgh, advisor to the government of Zambia on water supply development, talked about the lack of strategy in many previous aid and development projects he had worked on, particularly in relation to goal setting and strategic leadership, leading to a waste of money and other resources on a massive scale over a period of decades.
Delegates were left in no doubt that it is time for strategy to step up to the challenge of solving such problems in all sectors, and that there would be a great benefit to society in its doing so. The aim of these talks was to set the scene for the following day’s working conference, addressing the question of how to develop strategy as a profession, which is the mission of SPS.
Further output from the working conference will be shared in the near future and discussions of themes arising are already starting to take place in a subgroup of our LinkedIn community – Developing Strategy as a Profession.