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Microsoft Exec Writes ‘One Strategy’ For Your Success

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Below is a guest author blog by Steven Sinofsky & Marco Iansiti, co-authors of 'One Strategy: Organization, Planning, and Decision Making.'

Sinofsky is the president of the Windows and Windows Live Division, at Microsoft . He heads up and is responsible for the overall Windows business, from development to business strategy and marketing for Windows, Windows Live and Internet Explorer.

Iansiti is a Harvard Business School professor with twenty years of research on strategy and innovation under his belt.

The two teamed up to write a book about developing, communicating, and executing a cohesive strategy throughout a global organization. Based Sinofsky's internal Microsoft blog, the book shows how, over the course of several years, he shared the management processes with the 4,000 people who worked on the Microsoft Windows 7 project.

Guest Author Blog: Aligning your product development efforts to achieve ‘One Strategy’ by Steven Sinofsky & Marco Iansiti, co-authors of 'One Strategy: Organization, Planning, and Decision Making.'

Guest Author Blog
Guest Author Blog

Every firm has two strategies.

The first is top-down, “directed” strategy - what the CEO and the senior management team believe they should focus on. The second is bottom-up, “emergent” strategy, which emerges from the actual patterns of behavior of the people in the organization.

Directed strategy is what management believes needs to get done, while emergent strategy represents what actually gets done. Strategic integrity is when emergent and directed strategies are one and the same thing - when the strategy executes with the full, aligned backing of the organization for maximum impact. When a strategy has no integrity it’s like those war movie spoofs when the cavalry general goes on the attack, only to find that none of his troops actually followed him.

Creating and executing on a strategy that maximizes the chances for a successful project is hard work and takes a different approach. In our book, we look at how the Windows 7 development team came together to develop the product—aligning the strategy, goals, and execution of a very significant effort.

If this alignment is so important, why is it so hard to achieve?

In a word, inertia is the biggest challenge to alignment. Organizations, over time, tend to optimize the efficiency of their operating model. The structures, processes, and behaviors defined in this book are designed to break inertia, and maintain strategic alignment in times of change.

One of the most important tools in development alignment is a plan.

Yet we all know in this age of fast racing time to market, this is a counter-intuitive notion. The old adage, fail to plan, plan to fail, consistently proves itself to be true. Yet we all resist the temptation to plan for the fear of appearing slow or lacking marketplace agility.

Planning is central to the One Strategy approach.

But the planning process we describe in the book is going to surprise many executives. It’s not the usual top down, rigid, budget-style race for resources or “brain-trust” driven process developed by a select set of the “top people”. Planning for One Strategy is iterative and collaborative, defining a framework for executing on the strategic priorities, while refining the strategy and aligning the organization around its features. Planning is the process that more than any other activity works to align the organization around one set of goals, top-down, bottom-up, and “middle-out”. By necessity, planning is a process that involves many people and empowers those closest to the knowledge and the work.

Yet often the conventional wisdom is that planning can’t lead to innovation because innovation is a magic spark, not something you plan on happening.

We look at innovation not just as invention, which is of course a critical component, but on the combination of invention and impact. In a sense, innovation is invention times impact.

Invention is nice, but if it has no economic or social impact, it is useless.

Through the blogs and research we show that the alignment of the strategy the inventions that come from all around the team and industry becomes a force multiplier amplifying the whole.

What readers will find quite valuable will be a collection of blogs written during the course of developing Windows 7. These provide a unique lens on an organization going through structural and cultural changes, while also building a product. These are combined with a conceptual framework, based on cross-industry research, that makes the book accessible to senior managers in any industry.

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About the authors of 'One Strategy: Organization, Planning, and Decision Making'

Steven Sinofsky is President of the Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft Corporation. Prior to this position, he worked on the development of Microsoft Office from 1994-2006 and, prior to that, worked on Microsoft's development tools.

Marco Iansiti is the Director of Research and David Sarnoff Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the Chairman of Keystone Strategy LLC ( www.keystonestrategy.com) and is an expert on strategy and the management of innovation. He is the author or coauthor of two books, Technology Integration: Making Critical Choices in a Dynamic World and The Keystone Advantage: What the New Dynamics of Business Ecosystems Mean for Strategy, Innovation, and Sustainability, and has advised a variety of Fortune 500 firms.