“Strategy” is a concept that is flouted and used widely, in all business environments. It seems that every leader, manager, supervisor and even technical specialist strives to “think strategically” about the work that they do, and business schools and MBA programs teach many different strategic models to scores of students every day. Some examples of these include the SWOT analysis, Ansoff matrix, Porter’s Five Forces model and the PEST analysis, though a multitude of other “strategic models” exist.

While these models are all very useful tools to use, a question that often comes to my mind is “how can all these different people, at different levels, in different organisations of various complexity all believe that they are being strategic”?

According to Donald Fowke, strategy is about creating a competitive advantage that leads to profitable growth or sustained change. He says that whether a global company is competing in an international marketplace or a small none-profit wants to support a specific community, the status quo is not the answer, and both would need strategies that imply pre-emptive change, growth or new positioning. However, the Australian consultant Julian Fairfield believes that the approach to strategy varies according to the level of complexity of the organisation.

At BIOSS, we believe that there exists natural themes of work that manifest into different accountabilities throughout organisations. This is evident in our core management model, the Matrix of Working Relationships (MWR). Through the application of this model, it is clear to us that each theme of work can add value to strategic implementation, but that the themes become more complex, have increased time-spans of decision making and higher levels of discretion the higher up the organisational chain one travels.

Thus, both organisations and the people who need to set the appropriate strategy for the organisations can be defined by the required theme of work of the top leadership. For example, a company in Strategic Development is essentially a self-contained business unit where the key leadership challenge will be to continually redefine the business model so as to be successful in a 5 – 10 year time horizon, while a Corporate Citizenship company is likely to be an aggregation of several Strategic Development business units, that will probably operate globally in multiple markets seeking position a changing geo-political environment.

Implied in all of this is the concept that a strategic staffing policy will ensure that roles are filled with leaders, managers, technical experts and general employees who operate and can apply the strategy at the appropriate theme of work.

It is my belief that for strategy to truly be effective and implementable, it needs to initially be developed at the appropriate organisational theme of work, taking account of the necessary complexity and time-span. Further, for a strategy to have a meaningful impact on the direction a business takes, it needs to continually be cascaded down the organisation correctly, by being redefined and translated into the appropriate time-span and levels of discretion at each theme of work.

This means that all employees, at any level in an organisation can indeed make a strategic contribution and can “think strategically”, provided that the organisation’s structure and strategy appropriately empowers them to do so!