Everybody wants to develop the next iPad app. Inventing things is a great way to impress your friends. But sometimes crafting strategy is more tepid. One needs to balance their need to disrupt based on positioning, industry stage, resources and a myriad of other factors.
I have always viewed the exercise of strategic planning as a blend of revolution and evolution. It is important for companies to fully bake their last innovation before they can move on to the next. The inability to fully develop an idea can be futile. As the old saying goes, a man with two watches may not know what time it is.
Some companies have the chops to work on multiple disruptions at once, but they are usually the ones with an abundance of resources. For most, execution can require the attention of several executives and their underlings. Such work is both exhilarating and exhausting and it is not for the faint of heart.
One critical constraint is that the people who dream up such ideas are in the C-Suite, and they are the ones with the most limited bandwidth. It is for that very reason that the most senior people need to delegate operational responsibility so that they can keep their eye on the ball. It is extremely challenging for CEO’s to focus on revolution as they manage evolution. They may have the vision for evolution, but it is the job of the COO (or similar of a similar ilk) to see through incremental change.
That is not to say that incremental change is not valuable. It is more than valuable; it is the cost of admission in a business culture where customers expect Nordstrom quality and Wal-Mart pricing. Customers will not accept the status quo for very long, so continuous improvement is a required business practice.
Some companies are particularly adept at overcoming this resource dilemma. They create opportunities for innovation in their interactions with customers (by asking the right questions of the right people) and in the way that they manage their planning. Some environments are far more ripe for revolution than others, based on how their managers show up. Others execute vision by using outside resources (outsourcing) or task forces of employees who can focus on improvement. One way to develop mid-managers is to task them with tasks and initiatives that may expand their role and stretch their thinking.
So pick your battles wisely. Find a way to manage both your disruption and continuous improvement in parallel.