Friday, April 9, 2010

Strategy against specialization

Walter Kiechel, in a recent HBR blog post, makes a few very interesting points about the gradual dilution of the unique Strategy agenda, and its takeover by increasing specialization that misses the big picture. Moreover, he links the problem to the diverging paths of research and practice, a core concern at Strategy and You:

"Specialization is in the air, as it has been for twenty years. You see it in the academy. When Michael Porter expresses the worry that rising faculty members at Harvard Business School have become more focused on their research than on practice, he's talking — in part — about specialization."


There was a time when the practice of Strategy consulting firms and the development of the Strategy discipline overlapped quite a bit. But as Kiechel points out, that seems to have changed a fair bit:

"Even the consulting outfits who still proudly claim the title "strategy firm" glommed onto the trend years ago. Beginning in the 1980s, the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey shifted much of their effort into industry practices (banking, say, or energy) or into specialties built around a particular subject (customer behavior, or what hath the Internet wrought)."

At the extreme, could this increasing specialization have also contributed to a lack of understanding the big picture in contexts such as the current financial crisis?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting post.

I guess some of Kiechel's points make sense to me regarding what the financial institutions did to create this big mess we are in now. However, isn't specialization also a good thing in certain circumstances?

IMO, I think its a necessity to understand the business which you are in and see whether or not you should specialize or broader your outlook.

Also, "When Michael Porter expresses the worry that rising faculty members at Harvard Business School have become more focused on their research than on practice, he's talking — in part — about specialization." I understand that the need to have a balance between practice and research is important. However, through research isn't One getting practical experience? Doing high levels of research exposes One to the situations which are prevalent in the world today.

Anonymous said...

Well I agree to a certain point but specialization has its pros and cons.

Specializations allows a person or a firm to focus on a specific area and become the masters of the area, any intercee are sometimes best understood by the specialist.

As for big picture, being able to develope this skill is not everyones game or plate, or else we all would be great CEOs.

Post a Comment