While the foundational steps of the “purpose-profit balanced strategic planning process” reflect the basic tenets of an orchestra (as outlined in my earlier blog) – in reality- strategic planning processes vary from organization to organization. For example, the strategic planning process of a start-up firm usually differ from that of an established large firm- very much like how the jazz orchestra differs from the symphonic orchestra. In other words, in classical music, symphonic orchestra is regarded as the highly synchronized ensemble requiring integration and orchestration of various instruments (and musicians), whereas Jazz orchestra is more of an impromptu ensemble of instruments - and jazz musicians usually can knit a piece of music together by taking cues from each other and play their parts as they thought is the best – very much like the strategic planning process of a start up firm. In other words, within the purpose-profit balanced strategic planning process – we have two predominant modes: strategy as jazz and strategy as symphony – as applicable to start up firms and large firms respectively.
Depending upon the stage of the company, the type of your growth strategy and the culture – you as a leader must be asking the following questions to pick the right mode.
- Is your firm in an early start-up stage (or) ready to scale up to the next level?
- Is your strategy is to grow from adjacencies/white spaces (or) from strengthening the core?
- Is your organization’s culture - more of an informal entrepreneurial culture (or) a formal old economy model culture?
By and large - if the answers to the above questions are former- then, you need a Jazz strategy orchestra and if the answers are later – then, you need a Symphony strategy orchestra.
Under the Jazz orchestra mode, you have the flexibility to perform strategic planning in an ad-hoc fashion - formulating the vision, purpose and ideas along with your team members- very much like the musicians of the Jazz orchestra. The "beat" of your jazz orchestra is a continuous execution with constant refinements. You have the opportunity to intertwine creativity, intuition and innovation within every step of the way.
On the other hand, within the symphonic orchestra mode, the strategic planning must follow a disciplined process with leaders acting as orchestrators. With the nature and scale of the business being larger, your plans need to be completed fully before the execution starts. Purpose focused visionary strategists must be engaged at every part of the planning process, but equally important- they need to be complemented with profit focused operational strategists capable of producing operating plans meeting the quarter by quarter metrics. This type of symphonic orchestra type of strategic planning requires a dedicated strategic planning team, disciplined research, more collaboration and delegation among business units - very much like how orchestrators synchronize various instruments of a symphonic orchestra with precise alignment (i.e. clear metrics).
Folks who come from the start-up mode (with innovative culture) sometimes take time to adjust to this large firm format (and/or the formal structure), as they had to “let-go” the generalist working style and learn to play their specialist role within a larger company. And the opposite is also true as specialist type of folks who are good at scaling a business from operational standpoint- often find it difficult to adjust to a start-up mode (e.g. Innovation efforts within large firms), as it needs a person who is capable of wearing multiple hats (or generalists). The pace of an innovation culture might be seen as overly ambitious for these specialists, coming from operational mindset and they sometimes can stifle innovation if you are not careful. While it is possible for one person to exhibit the traits of both an Jazz and symphonic orchestra- it is more of an exception than a norm- and so companies must strive hard to nurture those people who can wear multiple hats.
Bottom-line: Like any other framework or model, these strategic planning modes are available as guidelines to pick and choose from depending upon the answers to the above three questions. However, in the real world, it is sometimes difficult to classify your firm as start-up firm and/or large scale firm as the type of strategy required isn't always absolute and so “doing both” might be the way to go - in the words of Inder Sidhu. Sure enough, Gerald Nanninga, also has an interesting way of classifying strategic planning as Pizza and barbecue sauces as outlined in his blog (http://planninga-from-nanninga.blogspot.com/). In other words, there are situations in which larger firms must learn to adopt the start-up culture (to innovate) - and start-up firms to periodically step back and adopt the discipline and structure of a large firm (to scale). The key is recognizing those situations and picking the right strategic mode (Jazz or symphony) that is most appropriate for the right situation. This is where intuitive leaders play a critical role in discerning the situations — and perhaps this is a great chance for you to exhibit whether you are the “right leader for the right time” as well.