Chapter 3. Make Sure the Strategy Is "Not Wrong"

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

Helmuth von Moltke

On May 24, 2010, IBM announced that it had agreed to acquire Sterling Commerce, a business-to-business (B2B) software applications provider from AT&T, for $1.4 billion.[22] At IBM's 2010 investor meeting, CEO Samuel Palmisano announced a reboot of the company's strategy and its intent to gain greater share in software applications.[23] This is not an insignificant shift, as IBM is planning for software to represent half of the company's pretax profits by 2015. It's perhaps as big a reboot as the change implemented by Lou Gerstner, IBM's CEO from 1993 to 2002, who led the shift in the company's focus from hardware into services.

Bob Irwin, the CEO of Sterling Commerce since 2007, takes a very straightforward approach to strategy in saying that, "The most important aspect of strategy is to make sure it's 'not wrong.'"[24] Underlying this comment is a belief that companies overinvest in the analytical process of trying to get their strategies perfect and don't put enough effort into implementation. Irwin believes, "You should get the strategy to a place where you're confident that it's not wrong, and then get everybody focused on execution." That's not to say that Irwin lacks an appreciation for data analysis and rigorous rounds of scenario planning, but he knows when to draw a line under the analytical process, declare it complete, and move on.

On the face of it, the conventional ...

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