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The Strategist

The role of the strategist in the strategy process has been implied in terms of crafting strategy (Ericsson et al, 2001). The passivity ascribed to the strategist is evidenced in leading strategy textbooks which do not explicitly address the strategist formation, role, skills and motivation, let alone their activities. This neglect of the strategist is somewhat paradoxical, in spite of rational and analytical capabilities emphasised as crucial contributions to strategy formation the role is often theorised out of existence. To further the confusion the literature uses terms such as CEO, president, manager, top leaders, strategic thinkers as a proxy for strategists (Ericson et al, 2001; Mintzberg, 1991). In essence the strategist is silent partner or invisible being in the strategy literature.

In terms of searching for the strategist Whittington states that there are three fundamental issues regarding strategists, or strategy practitioners, who they are, how they get there and the skills they need (2002:3). While research exists which gives some insight into the formation of more senior executives at director level (Hambrick, 1987, Pettigrew, 1992), there has been an apparent lack of research into participants lower down the management level as opposed to these managerial elites, participants such as professional strategy staff and strategy consultants (Whittington, 2002). Some question whether there is actually a primary function within organisation involving a role consisting principally with management of the company strategy. Furthermore external agents are

fundamental in forming the parameters that shape strategy action in a micro-context, while internally sources of strategy are diverse and may come from varying levels within the organisation (Hamel, 1996; Markides, 2000; Nonaka 1988).

Some authors have attempted to deal with the role of strategist through the lens of strategic thinking, which encapsulates some of the strategist s skills. Ohmae (1982) emphasises the importance of analytical thinking, intuition leading to local optimisation as well as more transformative reconfigurations. Similarly others note the necessity of challenging conventional wisdom and the visionary aspects of strategic thinking (Boar, 1997; Lorenz, 1995; Mintzberg, 1991; Robert. 1998; Stacey, 1994). Boar (1997) argues that cardinality and synthesis, rather than analytical decomposition, lies at the heart of strategic management. Thinking processes, however, are often muted by externalities and consumed by operational minutiae. Evidently there is also a dearth of research with respect to the skills strategists use. While Chandler (1962) attempted to carry out research on the multidivisional as a training ground for top management, we still know little about strategists skills and how these are developed and deployed. (Liedtka, 1998; Whittington, 2002). The nature of the role of the strategist is also somewhat ambiguous. Garratt (1991) describes the role of the strategist as: managing the conjunction of the political world or polity , with the more day-to-day routines of tactics and trying to keep them sufficiently in balance without allowing ossification . The fragmented and underdeveloped basis of the literature suggests the imperative of exploratory work in this area. Johnson captures this succinctly if the worlds of practice and

academic research demand a more micro perspective than the task is one of empirical investigation (et al., 2003:5). To rise to this challenge the strategy field needs to understand and explore who the strategist is in different organisational settings. y Converses with organisation leaders to diagnose and understand problems

The primary role of the strategist is to discuss at length with the organisation leaders about the state of affair, evolvement of a problem and document the diagnosis of the problem to arrive at rational understanding of the same. It may involve various sittings with the organisational leaders to gain insight of the problem. y Responsible for collection of data and conducting analyses

In any business activity importance of basic understanding of the related data can not be undermined. Data collection is very important and the methodology applied for data collection can have serious implications on selecting right kind of strategies. The strategists plays an important role in deciding on methodology of data collection and in-depth analysis of the same. The role starts from designing of data base, population size and selection of the right kind of domain. Thereafter he is responsible to zero-in on a particular data analytical tool. y Organises data

Having collected data, the most important step is to organise data in a required format to enable application of various statistical tools. To make the data collected suitable for applying a statistical tool, its organisation in a desired format is necessary. This role is also played by the strategists.

Pays attention to and track trends of competitors

It is utmost necessary for any strategist operating in any business environment to keep an eye on the strategies being operated by the competitors in same field. To make his strategy more effective he needs to understand the strategies of the peers and analyse implications of the same on his strategies. y Develops forecasts

Strategists basically develop business forecasts based on the data analysis assuming certain market conditions with fare degree of confidence by applying statistical tools of data analysis. He basically works as a forecaster for the business and makes forecasts based on various theories of probability applied on the statistics collected to analyse the problem. Forecasts are made with defined degrees of confidence after undertaking sigma studies. y Finds opportunities in emerging markets

This is again an important role. He has to find possibilities in the emerging market. Emerging markets are defined as untapped markets developing simultaneously with the traditional markets, but having better opportunities and growth, may be in different geographical areas or different economic zones. y Identifies potential risks and threats to a business

This is the primary base for erecting any structure of the strategy. Various potential risks associated with the business and the strategy being contemplated need to be identified and quantified. Various statistical tools are applied to quantify the risks and this helps in allocating various available resources to the business and to fortify the strategy. y Jail Buster

In order to extract the best of all the related human resources he takes steps to delimit the thought process and basically allows all the concerned to think out of the box. This helps in devising an optimum strategy and to extract the best out of all human resources. Basically he plays role of guardian figure and encourages all concerned to come out of all their views and give them a trial to arrive at a practical solution of the problems.

Finds solutions to organisational problems

Any organisation at any point of time will have its own set of problems. Strategist works to identify the problems and works in close association with the organisation leaders to chalk out solutions to make the entity immune of those adverse factors and aspects. y Role of a sculptor : Develops action plans for work-streams

In any organisation the ultimate performance is a result of effectiveness of various streams of the organisation. Strategist needs to understand role of various streams, co-ordinate with them independently to develop a rhythm amongst various streams and arrive at monitor-able plans. These actions plan are then monitored regularly and it is ensured that there is complete coherence amongst them. For the best outcome there needs to be a complete understanding of operational aspects of various streams. problems of the organisation. y Role of a Guru: Examines and monitors business unit performances He is basically a sculptor to erect epitome of the strategy for the

Regular examining of various business units at pre-decided intervals, both, qualitatively and quantitatively, is of utmost importance. Having formulated various strategies and implemented the same, the next important role is to examine performance of various business units to ensure that the strategies are implemented in the right spirit. This helps in undertaking any fine tuning if required. He virtually behaves like a Guru for the entire management of the organisation. y May be responsible for collaboration on product development

In many manufacturing industry, in order to develop any product, there may be a need to collaborate with various inside and outside parties. There are many stages in product development and it is one of the major roles of the strategists to collaborate on product development. He needs to remain associated with the concerned entities on each stage of product development to ensure development of the product strictly as per the requirement. This also helps in fine tuning the strategies during the process implementation. y Role of a diplomat: May interact with companies as a product developer

He, in fact, is also in a position to talk to various related companies as a product developer. Factually he is the person who is most clear about the project and its finer details. He needs to interact various related companies/ organisations on finer details of the product. This role is more similar to the role of a diplomat. He needs to ensure conversion of his thoughts into reality by behaving like a diplomat. y Creates presentations and reports

In order to present the final product/ strategy to the related parties/ organisation or the top management, he needs to create presentations and reports. Like an artist he makes his best efforts to transform his vision into the reports and presentation.

Converses with organisation leaders to diagnose and understand problems Responsible for collection of data and conducting analyses Creates presentations and reports Strategic Planner Data collection Responsible for data analysis Organises data Pays attention to and track trends of competitors Develops forecasts Finds opportunities in emerging markets Identifies potential risks and threats to a

business Finds solutions to organisational problems Develops action plans for workstreams Examines and monitors business unit performances May be responsible for collaboration on product development May interact with companies as a product