THE RIOT POINT

The Lab

The fruits of riotous experimentation.

Strategy is about why and what. Don't waste time on mission, vision and values.

Are you looking to improve the way you communicate strategy? 

If your corporation is populated by human beings, don't fight with the way the species is wired. Forgo the conversations on mission, visions, and values. Your organisation is looking for one thing; brevity and clarity on what needs to be done, and why. 

I have seen senior managers waste more time agreeing on the sub-definitions of strategy then on any part of the strategy generation process. Arguing whether it is better to use the term ‘values’ rather than ‘culture’ in a strategy document is akin to running a marathon while wearing a weighted vest—a useless effort that doesn’t add value. A small group may get satisfaction for overcoming a challenge, but this is done at the cost of performance. Is the improvement in intellectual satisfaction worth the reduction in business performance: I think not. 

Humans need clarity on what needs to be done and why. When this is done your audience can affirm the appropriateness of the strategy. They will also tolerate ambiguity as they too now recognise that some strategic questions cannot be answered with certainty. 

Humans need brevity. David Ogilvy, considered to be the father of modern advertising, pleaded with those passionate about their subject to, “tell the audience what it needs to know, not everything that you know.” You should be able to communicate your context-sensitive strategy in 1-4 slides. 

With clarity and brevity you should be able to state: 

1. The goal of the business; 
2. The 1-5 obstacles preventing achievement of the goal; 
3. The 3-5 coherent response aimed at eliminating obstacles (the strategy); 
4. Some leading and lagging indicators measuring progress. 

If you do not describe the strategy in the context of the obstacles to be overcome, you strip your story of any potency. Naked descriptors of pressing activities are all that remain. 

The what and the why cannot live in isolation. The tradition of oral and written stories rely on one common model; the protagonist overcomes an obstacle. From Little Red Riding Hood to Rambo, we see the protagonist prevail over a setback (or many setbacks) in order to accomplish their goal. The hero’s response to their mishaps and trials is mesmerising. The absence of impediment would leave a dull descriptor of delegated directives. It renders an organisation of followers, reliant on instruction and diminished motivation to exhibit problem-solving initiative. 

I have seen good strategy plans weakened in impact because of lack of context. The remedy is simple. Test yourself. At your next strategy communication, cover the GOSH with the minimum amount of material: 

G: The Goal you are aiming for. 
O: The Obstacles preventing you from achieving it. 
S: Your coherent Strategic responses to overcome the obstacles. 
H: How do you know are making progress.

A downloadable GOSH template can be obtained here.