Concerned your poor strategic thinking will be exposed? Time to write a book.
I have had the privilege of running strategy retreats in some exotic venues. Translate exotic to “places of heat, humidity and power cuts.”
Wool-suited, french-cuffed and tied (at that time), executives can sit cooly for hours in 40C heat. Terminate the AC if you need to, but don’t ever extinguish the projector. In my experience, nothing brings on a perspiratory flash-flood faster than the prospect of delivering a slide-less presentation.
Nor are consultants immune from the "blank brain" quivers.
At a convention last month, I saw an “expert speaker” tremble like a dog at a firewire display because a chunk of his materials had been covered by the previous presenter.
Now, in my view, a consultant or speaker worth their salt (and fee) should be able to speak engagingly and with clarity on a topic of their expertise with little or no preparation. If you can’t do this spontaneously, you need practice.
Similarly, an executive should be able to communicate her or his strategy in 10 mins or less. They should be able to do so engagingly and with clarity. They should be able to do it without electronic crutches. Sorry, aids. They should also be able to write their entire strategy plan on one piece of paper: A4 or US letter, size 12 font. No cheating.
Any Executive who cannot do this surrenders their right to admonish sub-ordinates who are similarly fuzzy in their communication of the strategy.
Fortunately a remedy is at hand.
You have to grab your audiences attention if you are seeking engagement or collaboration.
For most audiences, a strategy weaved together by narrative is more compelling and more memorable. And that, dear Executives, is your aim.
Create the Demand to Participate
You are always looking to “Create the Demand to Participate.” It doesn’t matter whether your business story is one of Drama, Action and Adventure or even Redemption. As the leader of others, you are always looking to “Create the Demand to Participate” within your colleagues and employees.
Create the Demand to Participate. Remember that phrase. It’s a litmus test of success.
To achieve it, you need to crispen your communication and embed in your head a strategy story that excites.
Be the author of your own story
Here’s one tool that works well: Write your strategy book. In fact, imagine you’re opening up a new genre—the non-fiction novel.
In one version of this exercise I limit the strategy book to 5 chapters. The ‘audiobook version’ is limited to 10 minutes. The entire strategy has to be presented on 12 slides or less. All-star’s keep it under 7 with diluting the message—all meat and veg—no dessert.
Finally, a written précis should be summarised on 1 sheet of paper.
The 5 chapters are Direction, See, Select, Deliver, Assess.
Chapter 1: Direction. These goals or vision that unite and excite. They can broad (“One ring to rule them all”) or specific (“Double EBITDA in each of the next 5 years”).
Chapter 2: See. Setting the scene. What are the obstacles preventing us from achieving our mission? Orcs, direct competitors, government legislation?
Chapter 3: Select. Where can you go from here? What are our options? What routes should we take around the mountain? How we be better and different than the competition?
Chapter 4: Deliver. Based on the range of options you wish to follow you need to describe the resources you require.
Chapter 5 Assess. How will we know we are going in the right direction?
How will end you the book so that the audience will demand to be part of the script?
Your strategy book should be a page-turner
Remember, your business strategy doesn’t need to be a pot-boiler, but it does need to be a page-turner, and that you can talk about at anytime, with ease but without props and without forewarning.
For those interested in writing their own strategy book, a template with instructions is available here.
Alternatively, work with me and peers in writing you own Strategy Book on the Human's Guide to Strategy workshop