Strategy That Anyone Can Understand

By Andrew Bass | Articles

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Originally appeared as: Andrew Bass’s Pragmatics Newsletter April 2012

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Strategy that everyone can understand

Many businesses I see are very good at actually producing and delivering their product or service. But operational excellence brings its own risks, and they can creep up on you if they aren’t actively managed.

Just as in sport or music, excellence comes from well-practiced routines: the more practiced, the more efficient and the more dependable… but also the more inflexible.

And that is a problem, because if the outside world changes faster than your inside world can keep up, you eventually run out of road. It’s not unusual for highly competent operations to get into trouble and even go out of business (think of RIM, Kodak, Woolworths etc).

So how do you preserve efficiency today while getting the organization ready for the future which is coming? Strategy has to be a live issue throughout the business and not just in the boardroom. That means asking: “How do you disseminate your strategy so everyone can understand what will be required to bring it to fruition?”

The packaging of this communication is crucial because:

• When you are in the trenches of an operationally demanding business, you decide what to do next based on the immediate and obvious requirements of the situation. The action-triggers are in your face, ears or inbox – they are concrete.

• Most top-management presentations of strategy are abstract, and the action implications, typically involving making preparations for what is coming, are not at all obvious to those who will have to carry them out.

• When the future predicted by the strategy ‘arrives’, operating staff wonder why management now requires them to change everything all of a sudden. Again.

Cues for strategic preparations need to be as clear as those for tactical actions. And because they have to compete with today’s ‘important and urgent’ demands, they need to be designed and orchestrated, or else they will be lost in the daily noise. There are many ways to do this.

One approach I find works well is based on the Three Horizons model of Baghai and his colleagues. A number of my clients now use this as a dynamic display by which to balance between strategic thinking and weekly, monthly and quarterly activities. For more on this model, read my article How to Balance the Short and Long Term, or have a look at Chapter 9 in my book: The Performance Papers.

The Performance Papers: Incisive Briefings For Busy Leaders

The Performance Papers: contains pragmatic ideas for managing strategically, leading teams, and influencing stakeholders in order to accelerate results. It is designed to be dipped-into or read straight through according to need.

“In this book, Andy provides expert guidance for aligning your people with your objectives and turning strategy into action. Particularly beneficial are the short summaries, conclusions, key points, tips and multi-step Processes.”

Jens R.Höhnel, Global Co-CEO & President Europe,
International Automotive Components Group ( IAC)

More about The Performance Papers – including testimonials, an extract and buying information (both from Amazon, and bulk orders for corporates) are available here:


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Permission granted to excerpt or reprint as long as you include attribution.

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