Carlos Leyva

Silicon Stories

Chapter 2: Competitive Advantage

Tear Down the Wall

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Strategy and implementation must exist as an integrated continuum if we are to gain a sustainable competitive advantage. If the strategy people throw their grand design over the wall to the technologists, it will get thrown back as a fucked-up solution, guaranteed! Michael Porter has proven that it makes no sense to speak of strategy outside the context of a set of activities within the value chain, just as it makes no sense to talk about reengineering the corporation.

How can you reengineer an entire corporation? What does it mean to do that? You can, however, reengineer a particular (limited) set of activities! Which ones? The ones that the people responsible for developing the strategy believe will result in an advantage. Which people? Ah, there’s the rub. Why does the wall between strategy and implementation exist to begin with? An obvious answer is that traditionally, the responsible parties have resided in separate organizational units. A more insightful answer is that some people (many people) prefer it that way. Why is that? Because, from the strategists’ point of view, gnarly implementation issues only get in the way of their wonderful thinking. Whereas, the technologists’ point of view is “Don’t bother me with strategy; it’s not my job,” which translates into “I need someone to blame” when (more often than “if”) the project goes awry. In other words, the wall provides convenient cover for lack of accountability.

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