Is your strategy context-free?

source: Simon Wardley

Consider this scenario (one you might be familiar with):

CIO: “All systems are operational this morning”

CEO: “Excellent news. Apparently the latest thing is cloud. According to this article in IT Weekly 67% of successful companies are using them. We should look into that”

CIO: “Certainly. Research I have says that private clouds are the thing to build as they’ve reached the plateau of performance and are an extremely efficient infrastructure compared to our existing technology.”

CEO: “Excellent work. Well, let’s look at getting a private cloud up and running. We don’t want to be left behind in this technology war.”

Now consider the same scenario, in a different context:

Corporal: “New cannons arrived sir. As per orders we installed and fired them this morning”

General: “Excellent news. According to this article in General’s Weekly, over 67% of successful generals bombard hills. Let’s make sure we’re doing that as well.”

Corporal: “Certainly sir! Our research says the latest thing to bombard hills with are mortars, it’s now a mature technology and an extremely efficient mechanism of killing compared to existing technology”

General: “Excellent work. Let’s bombard a few hills with mortars then! Don’t want to be left behind in this technology war.”⁠

You wouldn’t expect a General to have a ‘context-free strategy’ like this (based on what someone else did, somewhere else, some other time). So why do Executives in businesses think it’s acceptable to keep doing this?

h/t @swardley

Govern the state by being straight-forward; wage war by being crafty. — Laozi