In this article Tom Hawes describes five signs to detect distress regarding strategy and competitive intelligence, as quoted below. Some of them may sound obvious, but there are also some quite useful signals described that can really help you detect distress (and therefore guide you in your next steps, which by the way Hawes will describe in his next article). Let’s take a look at the five signals:
- It is unfashionable to be identified with strategy.
- “Strategy” is equated only to cost savings.
- Competitive intelligence is stopped.
- Common arguments do not work.
- There is an unsatisfied, pent up energy for the future.
The first one really is a subtle one, but indeed it’s not done to think about the future when there are more urgent matters. Speaking of strategy obviously means you do not appreciate the priorities as communicated to save the day. If you dare speak of strategy, then you better make sure it’s aligned with the urgent matters and proposed solutions for it (probably cost savings, and lots of it). Even though this is quite the contradictio in terminis, it’s probably the only way to get away with talking about something as non-urgent as the future.
As subtle as the first two symptoms may be, stopping CI activities as a whole is everything but that. It’s not really a symptom for distress, it ís distress.
The fourth and probably the most frustrating one that Hawes describes is the fact that in times of stress, reason does not reign. Common arguments may not be accepted. This makes sense of course; anything that sounds like an opportunity immediately triggers ‘investment’ in the reasoning of management. Even if you had the guts to mention strategy, you’d have to be insane to speak of investment in times of stress.
Hawes last symptom is a confusing one that chronologically takes place after the above symptoms. It’s about the revived wish to think about the future, possibilities and all the other taboos of recent times. But since the organization is still in the aftermath of stress, people do not know how to get moving again which is the symptom that Hawes describes. For CI practitioners this might actually be a very valuable symptom since they can now use their original vocabulary again without being severely punished, and can start doing again what they are good at.
5 Signs of Strategy and Competitive Intelligence Distress by Tom Hawes