Chapter 2. Strategy Is about Making Choices, or Is It?

No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.

Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, 1848–1916

Strategy formulation is often seen as a somewhat mystic process. Heroic stories in the business press do not make it easier. They typically like to portray business leaders as geniuses with brains the size of a basketball who can see things that others cannot. At a crucial moment in time, they make a strategic call that turns out to make all the difference in business performance ever after, leading the competition by years. But the higher these leaders rise in the eyes of the public, the harder they can fall, in case their prediction did not come true. And there are severe consequences for the share price.

The press loves to write about brilliant CEOs such as Steve Jobs of Apple (although in earlier times this was very different), Wendelin Wiedeking of Porsche (until the debt grew out of control), and Fred Goodwin of Royal Bank of scotland (until the credit crunch came along). And we love to hear and believe these stories. Even managers and leaders working within an organization find the strategy formulation process nebulous. Once a year, the executives organize an off-site and gather for a few days. To the rest of the organization it is unclear what they are doing. Perhaps they sing secret songs around the campfire. And once the off-site is over, the executives communicate the new strategy to the organization. As it is unclear where ...

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