A recent posting on Brand Autopsy featured the following quote from Jeffrey Pfeffer’s What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management:
Instead of sitting in meetings and spending time preparing fancy PowerPoint presentations, develop your strategy adaptively, by using your company’s best thinking at the time, learning from experience, and then trying again, using what you have learned. Under almost all circumstances, fast learners are going to outperform even the most brilliant strategists who can’t adapt. (p. 170)
Aside from resonating with parts of my own work experience right now, the quote struck me as a nice intersection between the musings about social media that have been going on over on the Acronym blog and the criticisms of strategic planning consistently voiced by Jamie Notter and Jeff De Cagna. (For a potential starting point see, for instance Notter’s Strategic Planning is Killing Us and De Cagna’s follow up Three Reasons Why Strategic Planning is Killing Us.)
One of the great enticements of social media is that many of the technology tools to support it are free, and it is thus quite easy to dive into with little forethought. That will happen at some organizations, while at other organizations decisions about whether to embrace social media will get bogged down in long meetings and PowerPoint. Neither approach is likely to produce success.
Few management teams or boards are going to be able to figure our how social media can best benefit their organization by holing up in a meeting room and hashing out all the possibilities. On the other hand, simply diving in without tying efforts back to a clear sense of strategy and an organizational commitment to learn from the experience usually doesn’t work either.
Notter and De Cagna’s approach to strategy, at least as far as I understand it, is a much more iterative approach than has been used traditionally by associations or most other organizations. For organizations that want to successfully embrace social media, an iterative approach is essential. Start with a clear set of strategic assumptions and a commitment to learn, dive in and experiment with the social media tactics that seem to make most sense strategically, and then adapt strategy, tactics, or both as needed.
(I know—easy to write, much harder to do.)