Reflections on Organisational Strategy: insights from Saïd Business School

3 minute read

This March, I had the privilege of embarking on a year-long Strategy and Innovation postgraduate programme at Saïd Business School. The first module focused on Organisational Strategy and was led by mergers and acquisitions expert and senior lecturer Tim Galpin. Given its direct relevance to my own role in a management consulting firm, I am happy to say that the module exceeded my expectations.

The week was an intense, dynamic, and insightful experience. Studying alongside a diverse cohort of individuals from various industries and both profit and non-profit organisations provided me with invaluable insights, enhanced by Tim's academic and business expertise. Through lectures and group problem-solving discussions using real-world organisational scenarios, we covered topics such as strategy development, external and internal factors analysis and strategy execution.

The first module led me to reflect on the following questions:

Can we predict the future?

Throughout the module, we explored some big questions, such as the possibility of a perfect strategy.

We discussed how, in the current climate of rapidly evolving technology, as well as changing economic, political, and social landscapes, businesses must continually adapt to remain competitive. We agreed on the importance of continuously monitoring trends to anticipate and react to shifts in the ever-evolving competitive environment. Drawing on the example of the recent pandemic, we examined different strategies for managing black swan events, weighing their respective benefits and drawbacks.

An exciting discussion developed around the existing applications of AI tools and their future potential in the context of strategic planning. The group shared some interesting views and perspectives, extending the conversation far longer after the lecture was over.

Where do brilliant strategies come from?

In the past, the prevailing assumption was that great strategies tend to be conceived by 'a lone genius' or arise from some ‘eureka moment’. Today, we understand that ideation and creativity are closely tied to group dynamics and collaboration.

Indeed, effective strategic planning encourages teamwork and open communication to break down silos and create space for innovative solutions to emerge. For example, many of the most innovative tech companies have adopted an open-space office layout to encourage spontaneous collaboration between teams.

Strategy formulation truly is a team sport that requires unique perspectives and strengths to come together, and the most brilliant ideas re often derived from the most unexpected places. It is the exchange of ideas that leads to success.

What is the best strategy?

Developing a great strategy is one thing, but actually implementing it in an organisation is another. As a management consultant, I have seen companies invest heavily in crafting the best strategy, only to fall short when it comes to execution. As a result, many strategies are never realised. I vividly remember a few years ago when a senior manager in a prominent organisation showed me a thick pile of past strategy papers he was using as a laptop stand.

The truth is that the value of a strategy lies in its execution, and the best strategy is the one that can be effectively implemented. Therefore, assessing the strategy against the organisation’s mission, vision, and values, and ensuring the right resources for its implementation is crucial. Furthermore, strategy development and execution are interdependent and an ongoing process based on testing, feedback, revision, and adaptation is needed. 

Overall, I found the first module at the Saïd Business School to be an enriching experience and have already begun applying the learnings to my work. I look forward to continuing the learning as the programme progresses and am confident that the skills and knowledge I gain will be invaluable in my future endeavours.

Oxford Executive Diploma in Strategy and Innovation