2014-01: There are bold moves, and there are strategic moves

I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague of mine about how we would think about the various directions that a particular project could go. The conversation stemmed from a rather brutal conversation with a senior leader of our organization.  We discussed with him and other leaders a project that we had been working on for a few months, and suddenly, the whole project was being put into question, and our department’s strategy put into question.
The senior leader in question was keen on making big strategic moves based on our experience from the past 3-4 years.  After this particular meeting, my colleague and I, spent quite a it of time talking through context and intentions, and really what this particular leader meant.
It came down to, we found, a bit of a misunderstanding on the difference between bold moves and strategic moves. The two are not mutually exclusive, but as we talked through we discovered that often people erroneously use them interchangeably.
  • A bold move does not need to be strategic, but it can be. A bold move is flashy, visible move.
  • A strategic move does not need to be bold, but it can be. A strategic move is a move supporting an existing or new strategy.  When a move supports a new strategy, it can come across as a bold move.
So we have 4 categories, and this could be confusing…  So let’s talk through real or theoretical examples (I would welcome any real examples that you may have):
  • Bold and strategic: Ron Johnson’s move to change the ailing JC Penney but radically changing the internal layout and coupon-ing that the brand was known for was a bold and strategic move.  Unfortunately that was not a successful move, but it was both a bold move (change format for new customers) supporting a new strategy (revive brand and access a new – younger – market).
  • Bold and not strategic: I can’t think of any example here, but if you were to use a POI (Portfolio of Initiatives), this would be a move that would be unfamiliar (to the company) or uncertain (to the industry), with very short term (burst, flashy), with and very large market cap at stake.
  • Not bold but strategic: Promoting people from within an organization suffering from staff attrition, low morale due to market instability, or active M&A activity or rumors.  Also acquiring small startups to create a portfolio of IP that may not be easily noticeable (i.e. head of the market understanding).  These also could be the moves that allow to continue to build up on a strategy.
  • Not bold and not strategic: Probably too many fit here.  These are the day to day to activities, that at an organization may do.  Revisiting vendor contracts, hiring junior colleagues, etc…
As I write this, I can’t stop to think of the ties back to the POI (which I reference above).  If you are not familiar with the POI, you can read more about it on the McKinsey.com website (http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/strategy/enduring_ideas_portfolio_of_initiatives).  Maybe there’s more there…  What do you think?