Thursday, July 24, 2008

An afternoon of Strategy

Can Strategy really be put into the same category as a good book, your favourite CD or a celebrity chef? Can you really do it justice in an afternoon? The answer is most definitely yes and you can make it just as pleasurable with or without a teapot and a plate of custard creams.

No, I have not lost my marbles, I just believe that many organisations spend too much time sitting around a polished table poring over management accounts, making poor decisions and crafting strategies that they are unable to communicate to their workforces. And what is the result, a thick document that ends up in the shredder, and even worse does not help the organisation in any way at all.

So how is this feat to be achieved, read on.

First of all we have to make an assumption that those running the organisation are at least technically competent, even if their management and leadership styles are less than ideal. They should have a good idea of the state of the company, the competition, the environment and of course the employees.

Step 1, stare hard at your organisation and look at all aspects of it, not just the balance sheet or profit and loss account. How adaptable is it, have you got the right skills, is it too big or too small or perhaps suited for other markets? Record this information in a suitable fashion, maybe using sketches, mindmaps or pictures (you will see why shortly).

Step 2, gaze into the future (how far in advance is up to you) and create a really good idea of what the organisation needs to be like in order to fend off the competition, where it will be, how it will work, what markets it will be in. If your time horizon is short then you can simply extrapolate from existing data. If you have a long time horizon then you may need to consider scenario planning or some sort of Futures Programme. Don't be influenced too much by the present, your organisation should be succeeding on its own a a point in the future.

Step 3, create a storyboard. A simple version may consist of 6 boxes on a sheet of flip chart paper. Number the boxes 1 to 6 and put the output from Step 1 into box 1 and the output from Step 2 into box 6. This is easier if you use visual items such as pictures but adapt everything to suit yourselves. You can even add or remove boxes if you wish. By now you will have guessed that the Step 4 is to fill in the intermediate steps but going backwards from the future to the present, by asking 'how did we get here?' rather than 'how do we get there?'. This way you will always get to your desired end point!

The results of steps 1 to 4 is a storyboard that many in the creative industries will be familiar with. It tells a story which is how we prefer to take in information. It also allows others to add their own perspective without actually changing the story (try doing that with a strategy document). This raw document can also be used immediately by Human Resources and Marketing to communicate this strategy to employees and other stakeholders and it can be updated regularly.

This method really does work, why not give it a try?

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