Breakfast with Clausewitz: Strategy and Finance
Sweeney, Jack, Business Finance
It would seem that every part of finance these days is trying to trigger greater stategic thinking. Having automated more and more of their transactional-related work, finance executives can now step more into the strategy arena, unfettered or no longer weighted down with the burden of plus-sized transaction processing.
However, there is some question as to whether finance professionals fully grasp the differences between their world and the strategy world.
To better equip themselves for the journey, they may want to reserve a seat for Carl von Clausewitz at their next breakfast meeting. If nothing else, the image of a 19th-century Prussian soldier eating the healthy choice selection at the Four Seasons Hotel may help to better underscore these differences. For his part, Clausewitz authored the classic On War, a text routinely praised for its enduring principles - principles that can empower anyone to develop effective strategic thinking practices, or so renowned business leaders such as Jack Welch frequently acknowledge.
As an admirer of both Clausewitz and his strategic- thinking contemporary, von Moltke, Welch writes: "They did not expect a plan of operations to survive beyond the first contact with the enemy. They set only the broadest of objectives and emphasized seizing unforeseen opportunities as they arose. Strategy was not a lengthy action plan. It was the evolution of a central idea through continually changing circumstances."
Here Welch hits upon Clausewitz's central dictum that strategy cannot be reduced to a single right answer or formula. …