Strategy work is art, science, choices, and balancing
​Dean Markus Granlund writes about strategy work. Photo: Esko Keski-Oja
In the long run, an organisation needs strategic planning and management to succeed. Successful strategy work requires analytical and participatory planning, implementation that creates commitment, and long-term monitoring. Strategy literature in itself is large and sprawling, and there are several schools within it. Even strategy itself has dozens or even hundreds of definitions. To summarise the literature, you can perhaps only say that in practice, strategy work seems to be as much art as it is science. Likewise it seems to be clear that in practice, strategy involves choices made within certain restrictions, which makes strategic management always more or less a balancing act.

The research and the literature of strategic planning and management discuss increasingly creating and implementing everyday strategies. This means that strategic planning, analysis and implementation is done all over the organisation every day in one way or another. The lesson in this may be that strategy should not be just an abstract sketch of the future dreamed up by the upper management, but instead it should be something that everyone creates and implements.

When we talk about competitive strategies, which is increasingly common nowadays in universities, too, this largely involves identifying competitors and their strengths, and using this as a basis for analysing how your organisation stands out or could stand out from its competitors positively. This kind of an exercise makes you think about the mission statement of your organisation and raises questions that are not always easy to answer. But it is by pondering these difficult questions that you can distil the core of the operation and the keys to success. Personally, I see the traditional SWOT model as an excellent tool in this distillation work; it is particularly useful for identifying the organisation's serious sore points where corrective actions are clearly needed.

Strategy work and its monitoring mechanisms are ways to signal what is important, and what the aspects are that we are particularly good at both now and in the future. In the strategy work for Turku School of Economics, the present status and the future guidelines have been brought to centre stage using different methods: who we are, in what direction we want to develop the school, what our values are, and how we can reach the desired future state. We have decided to invest in certain themes, which include innovation, foresight, and responsibility. We have further identified certain areas as areas of strength in research, which define our profile in relation to our competitors. These areas include entrepreneurship, management control, and business networks, as well as economic policy and the markets. Currently, the operational programmes for implementing the strategy are under way. The development actions will be scheduled and their responsibilities assigned, and clear goals and monitoring mechanisms will be set for them.

However, the most central part of the implementation is gaining the commitment of the personnel and the students in the development work. This requires constant clarification of the goals and benefits, so that there is no impression of yet another process that is heavy with paperwork and increases bureaucracy. An essential part of this work is also maintaining the uncompromising basic values of the scientific community (ethics, criticism, creativity, and openness) and the other core values of our school (communality, trust, commitment, and responsibility) so that they are constantly present as the guiding principles of the activities.

Markus Granlund
Dean of Turku School of Economics