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Part III: An HR Tactician's Guide to Strategy

Phase Three: Specifying your Strategy Type

In the previous phase of "An HR Tactician's Guide to Strategy," we explored the fundamentals of a classic strategy and the importance of organizational effectiveness and strategic positioning. We discovered that a solid strategic foundation and intentional positioning set the stage for success in the ever-evolving business landscape.


As we embark on Phase Three, we delve into the crucial task of specifying your strategy type. Building upon the knowledge gained from the classic strategy model, we will explore four advanced strategic paths: adaptive, shaping, and visionary approaches. Each of these strategies offers a unique perspective on how organizations can navigate the complexities of their industries.


With the nuts and bolts out of the way with a classic strategy model, let us review the other three and laser-focus on the company's strategy. Professors Reeves, Loves, and Tillmanns argue in their work, "Your Strategy Needs a Strategy," that there are four advanced strategic paths: a classic, adaptive, shaping, and visionary approach. They center their thesis on two essential elements in any industry: predictability and malleability; where predictability is about forecasting the future, while malleability is the probability that you (and competitors) can shape the industry. 


Predictability refers to the ability to forecast the future, while malleability represents the probability of shaping the industry landscape. Understanding these elements is pivotal in selecting the most effective strategy for your organization. The adaptive strategy builds upon the essentials of the classic approach but focuses on shorter planning periods and rapid evolution. As an adaptive strategist, you must be nimble and ready to recalibrate your approach as competitors encroach upon your territory. This strategy involves making quick changes, such as divesting assets that have become liabilities or reallocating resources to maintain a competitive edge.


An Adaptive strategy has many of the essentials of the classic except that the plan is for a shorter period and regularly evolves—quickly and without delay. Being adaptive requires the strategist to recalibrate their approach, look at the battlefield, and change tactics as the competitor encroaches on their field. Examples of change include divesting assets that have become liabilities or selling them off for reallocating resources.


In the adaptive state, expect tacticians to be nimble and less efficient than a well-oiled machine. However, that is okay because they can quickly move deliberately to accomplish a goal or overcome a competitor. Expect the strategist to recommend devices that are 80% as efficient as the bestselling machine at a third of the price, as it is perfect enough and gives the company cash to invest in other areas. Just like the weatherman predicts the weather by looking at the change of winds and coming storms, the strategist situates herself as the ship's captain to observe changes in customer tastes and market fluctuations and makes immediate corrections to the ship's path.


Shaping is much like adaptive but even more volatile because there's little to nothing established; expect brief planning periods and ever shorter periods before the strategy changes again. As the name suggests, shaping requires the strategist to move quickly and create hubs of commerce that attract the masses. A shaping strategy has many risks since it requires the company to marshal its resources behind a product or service that doesn't have an ecosystem built out yet and requires them to be created; however, with risk comes significant reward.

When the iPod came to market in late 2001, it wasn't the first music player on the market; that was Sony with the Walkman in 1979, which created a new consumer product and segment: portable music. Apple's iPod brought portable music to the twenty-first century by introducing hundreds, then thousands, of songs on a single device versus a single CD that could play twenty-something songs max. In addition, the iPod created iTunes, where consumers could buy albums and even individual songs, audiobooks, and digital recordings to sync their iPods.[i]


Visionary is brand-new; like the all-screen iPhone Apple released in 2007, there was none other in its category, and it disrupted several industries simultaneously.[ii] This category requires careful planning as customers need guidance on who, what, and where they would be engaging.


As we progress in this series, we will dive deeper into each strategy type, exploring its unique characteristics, implementation challenges, and success stories. By understanding and choosing the right strategy type for your organization, you can position yourself as a strategic leader and drive unprecedented growth and success.


Stay tuned for Phase Four of "An HR Tactician's Guide to Strategy," where we will unravel the intricacies of each strategy type and equip you with the tools to make strategic choices that propel your organization to new heights.


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