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Reinventing Your Strategy Development

Stocks in this article: IBM

IBM's Business Leadership Model. Gerstner's first step was to ban strategy consulting firms and enable leadership teams to build their own strategies. This required a common strategy model and vocabulary. The new model was named the IBM Business Leadership Model (BLM). This model is still in use today.

The BLM is very simple. It has two parts: strategy and execution. Ask an IBM executive about strategy and he will see the BLM model in his mind. This common perspective and vocabulary is essential for real communication.

IBM's Strategic Leadership Forum. IBM designed the Strategic Leadership Forum (SLF) to build business unit (BU) strategies. The SLF is a four-and-a-half day working session for BU top teams. Typically four to six business unit top teams attend with 10 to 15 members on each team.

The week begins on Sunday evening and ends of Friday mid-afternoon with a completed strategy. It is important to note that some of IBM's BUs employ more than 100,000 people. Yet regardless of size, the process is the same. In one week, the strategy is complete.

The SLF methodology is straightforward. One month before the session, team leaders hold a kick-off meeting to define data needs. Like a business school case study, attendees review this data prior to the SLF.

The Sunday evening objective is to gain consensus on the performance gap -- the main problem they are trying to fix. Note that this is the "main problem" and not "main problems." Perhaps the ultimate failure factor during strategy design is addressing too many performance gaps. These teams inevitably get lost and the process grinds to a halt. Successful teams address only one gap.

Over the next four days, the teams complete each part of the BLM model. For example, BLM "strategy" is broken into three parts: strategic intent, marketplace insight and business design.

On Monday morning, members of all the teams assemble in a theater-style room to listen to a one-hour lecture on strategic intent. After the lecture, the BU work teams move into breakout rooms and spend three hours forming a consensus on a statement of strategic intent for their BU.

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