Mind the gap

According to a 2019 Gartner strategy agenda poll, 70% of corporate strategists expressed a low level of confidence in their ability to translate strategy into action, and 82% cited the complexity of delivering change initiatives as a critical barrier to effective execution.  

The gap between vision and implementation causes brands to become irrelevant and businesses weak. Money and resources are wasted on daily activities that are not aligned with the core of the business. Combined annual spending on strategy consulting, business consulting, and advertising is worth almost 1 trillion USD alone. 

This also has a human toll. The number of burnouts (with severe consequences) is rising, and one of the main reasons is overwork caused by a lack of clear focus and sense of meaning. According to Perry Timms, overwork-related absences cost the UK economy 12.5 million people-days per year.

Fig. 0. Even a slight gap between the vision (strategy) and the implementation can cause substantial loss of money and resources. 

The world is moving at increasing speed. We cannot predict and control everything anymore. Technology, culture, and markets are moving ever faster. New channels of communications are appearing; the old ones’ roles are changing. 

User demographics are frequently irrelevant; behavioural profiles seem more fitting. A 55-year-old white male in Europe might have the same interests as a 25-year-old female in China and a 35-year-old transgender person in the US. We know increasingly more about the users and their behaviours; we can practically track them in real-time. This data is becoming ubiquitous and a commodity. 

A user-centric approach and market insights are a table-stake. Therefore, it will become increasingly important to turn the focus back on our own organisations, and to understand not only how we are different, but what constitutes our identity – what is our genome. Even more relevant, we should be able to apply it to everything we do.  

Over the past decades, we have become excellent in simplification. We simplify in order to make complex concepts and systems easier to understand and therefore, easier to control. We reduce the number of components, merge some of them into new ones, replace others with shorthand or universal symbols until there is nothing left to take away. However, there is a danger that we will become generic and lose much of our identity in the process. 

By reducing a highly developed organisational culture or corporate DNA to a set of values, we are only halfway there. We have managed to distill a complex set of behaviours and beliefs into a set of values. What we are missing, however, is the other half of this process, namely the question of how to recode these values into concrete and organisation-specific actions.   For example, Apple, IBM, Microsoft (and countless other companies) would describe themselves as “innovative”, but the same value manifests itself differently. Each organisation is innovative in its own specific way. The key, therefore, is how to transition from generic values to specific manifestations. 

We cannot simplify the complexity of our world itself, it is becoming more complex every day. However, we can strive to make it understandable - to decode and recode it. This will enable us to embrace the complexity, not fight it. 

“Organisation design can seem unnecessarily complex; the right framework, however, can help you decode and prioritise the necessary elements,” argue Gary L. Neilson, Jaime Estupiñán, and Bhushan Sethi, in Forbes. 

Stephen Bungay in the Harvard Business Review is clear: “A strategy is not a plan, it is a framework for decision-making, a set of guiding principles which can be applied as the situation evolves.” 

Martin Thomas in his book Loose  argues that “Rapidly changing customer expectations are also forcing institutions to operate and respond in real time, placing a premium on agility, flexibility, and an ability to improvise. Longer-term planning and cautious, careful deliberation are increasingly becoming luxuries that few organisations can afford.” 

For businesses and brands to be flexible, resilient, and future-proof, we have to design and manage them less as architecture and more as biology. 

To achieve that, we have to decode and recode the corporate DNA of an organisation and structure it in a way that will enable us to recompose and re-use it time and again according to specific needs and requirements. To be able to do this, we need to invent a language. 

A language that will enable different parts of the business to have the same understanding of the same values; be it a manager or a front line worker, a sales rep in Brasil or an accountant in Germany. 

The language of the Business Genome is built on four core categories - values, manifestations, domains, and briefs. 


Excerpt from the Business Genome White Paper by Matevz Medja.  Decode, design, and manage corporate DNA. Build organisations, develop brands and grow companies in line with values.

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