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Watch “A Plan is Not a Strategy” talk with Roger Martin

Roger Martin explains why “A Plan is Not a Strategy” because plans typically aren’t explicit about what the organization chooses not to do and why.

A comprehensive plan—with goals, initiatives, and budgets–is comforting. But starting with a plan is a terrible way to make strategy. Roger Martin, former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and one of the world’s leading thinkers on strategy, says developing strategy means going outside an organization’s comfort zone and escaping the common traps of strategic planning.

A Plan is Not a Strategy

My Takeaways

  • If you’ve been following my reflections of the journey of designers becoming strategists, you probably know how much professor Martin informed my view on strategy: it’s all about the choices that a firm makes in it industry to creating advantage and value relative to competition.
  • I’ve also mentioned it’s been my experience that — left to chance — it’s only natural that teams will stray from vision and goalsHelping teams paddle in the same direction requires not only good vision and goals, but also leadership, and intentional facilitation.
  • That said, I’ve argued that – while Strategists are not expected to fully manage design projects in their area of responsibility – there are some Project Management skills that will prove invaluable for their effectiveness in influence the decisions that drive product vision forward.
  • In this short video, Roger Martin sums up the (controversial) ideas he shared in The Big Lie of Strategic Planning (for Harvard Business Review) that “Planning typically isn’t explicit about what the organization chooses not to do and why. It does not question assumptions.”
  • Finally, I love the framing of why Strategy makes everyone uncomfortable: it starts with acknowledging the reality that you can’t control your customers! He didn’t use those words, but — based the way he framed it — one could argue that strategy is a big hypothesis on how to create value.

In planning, you control the costs! You are the ‘customer’! It’s comfortable. In Strategy, the actual customers are the customers! You don’t control them! You don’t control revenue!

Roger Martin

About Roger Martin

Roger Martin is the Institute Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management and the Premier’s Chair in Productivity & Competitiveness. From 1998 to 2013, he served as Dean. In 2013, he was named global Dean of the Year by the leading business school website, Poets & Quants.

He has published 10 books the most recent of which are Getting Beyond Better written with Sally Osberg (Harvard Business Review Press, 2015) and Playing to Win written with A.G. Lafley (Harvard Business Review Press (HBRP), 2013), which won the award for Best Book of 2012-13 by the Thinkers50. He has written 21 Harvard Business Review articles.

In 2013, Roger placed 3rd on the Thinkers50 list, a biannual ranking of the most influential global business thinkers. In 2010, he was named one of the 27 most influential designers in the world by Business Week. In 2005, Business Week also named him one of seven global ‘Innovation Gurus.’

Roger is a trusted strategy advisor to the CEOs of companies worldwide including Procter & GambleLegoIDEO and Verizon.

A Canadian from Wallenstein, Ontario, Roger received his AB from Harvard College, with a concentration in Economics, in 1979 and his MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1981.

By Itamar Medeiros

Originally from Brazil, Itamar Medeiros currently lives in Germany, where he works as Director of Design Strategy at SAP and lecturer of Project Management for UX at the M.Sc. Usability Engineering at the Rhein-Waal University of Applied Sciences .

Working in the Information Technology industry since 1998, Itamar has helped truly global companies in multiple continents create great user experience through advocating Design and Innovation principles. During his 7 years in China, he promoted the User Experience Design discipline as User Experience Manager at Autodesk and Local Coordinator of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) in Shanghai.

Itamar holds a MA in Design Practice from Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK), for which he received a Distinction Award for his thesis Creating Innovative Design Software Solutions within Collaborative/Distributed Design Environments.

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