Many companies have an executive to guide their strategies. The discipline’s professionalization, which began in earnest in the 1980s as it evolved from the chief executive’s domain into a core corporate function, prompted the creation of heads of strategy, strategic-planning directors, and, more recently, chief strategy officers (CSOs). Who better than a professional strategist to help meet the big new uncertainties of the 21st century?
Yet today’s unpredictable environment is utterly incompatible with what, historically, has been one of the chief responsibilities of many strategists: leading the annual strategic-planning process. While nothing new, the weaknesses of traditional strategic planning—characterized by a lockstep march toward a series of deliverables and review meetings according to a rigid annual calendar—have been amplified by the importance of agility in a rapidly changing world.1
Strategists have responded by increasing the scope and complexity of their roles beyond planning. In a recent survey of nearly 350 senior strategists representing 25 industries from all parts of the globe, we found an extraordinary diversity of responsibilities (13 by our count). But running the planning process still loomed large, ranking second in priority on that list, even if many respondents said they would prefer to spend significantly less time on this part of their role.