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Competing Today While Preparing for Tomorrow

High-performing companies employ dual strategies: they maximize today's capabilities and simultaneously develop new capabilities for the future. In the past, most organizations could run and change their businesses using a single strategy; even today, most companies do not clearly discriminate between present and future. A single-strategy approach, however, cannot meet the challenges created by accelerating competition and change.

Strategies for today ensure that functional and supply-chain partner activities are aligned with company strategy and harmonized with organizational structures, processes, culture, incentives, and people. They clarify segment, positioning, and resource deployment choices. Strategies for tomorrow involve decisions about how to define and position the future business. They start with visions of the future -- for example, market territory and forces that might reshape it; competitive moves; strategy options and choices; needed competencies and resources; and knowledge of how to get "there" from "here."

Achieving the right balance between a present and a future orientation depends on the situation. During times of rapid or extreme change, the future component claims more attention; during more stable times, the present component predominates. In any situation, however, both components must always be addressed in parallel.

Institutionalizing dual strategies requires that companies clearly define leadership responsibilities, balance organizational structures and processes, develop systems for managing duality, and redesign control mechanisms. Implementation must begin at the top. Leaders at all levels of the enterprise must promote the need for dual thinking and communicate the two agendas and their significance to people in every organizational nook and cranny. Dual strategies succeed only if those who need to implement today and change for tomorrow understand the reasons behind each.

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