Monday, January 30, 2017

Strategy is Not About Doing What’s “Important”

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Be willing to make decisions. That's the most important quality in a good leader.
General George S. Patton

Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.
Napoleon Bonaparte

Plenty of misconceptions about this one.

We seem to think that developing our strategy entails asking each member of our senior team for their ‘laundry lists.’

Result? An overflowing project hopper, a pipeline that’s turned to cement, and a confusing message to team members.


Strategy is about choosing. “Here’s where we’re going, and these are the activities that’ll get us there. All these others are good ideas but they’re not our priority, so we’re going to put them in the Parking Lot for now.”

Of course, as noted in my earlier column, there is no ‘right answer’ in strategy. So, we articulate our hypothesis with the understanding that we’ll adjust it based on what happens.

Quick adjustments depend entirely on a strong management system that allows us to detect changes, and adjust and deploy our ‘emergent’ strategies.

Strategy is about deciding and about accepting the responsibility therein. ‘Deciding’ is the leader’s most difficult job.

Napoleon Bonaparte and George Patton were clear on this. (George W. Bush, perhaps dyslexic, was less elegant: “I’m the decider and I make the decisions.”)

Deciding means we’ve grasped the situation on the chessboard, and have articulated a plan. The ‘story’ behind the decision is an important test of the plan.

Does the story make sense? Is it compelling? Can we communicate it to our management team and organization?

Thus strategy is also story-telling. I write stories and poems for fun and to record my adventures around the world [Reflections of a Business Nomad].

Stories & poems keep our strategic thinking skills sharp. They help us read the chessboard - and decide.

Best regards,

Pascal


2 comments:

  1. And as Toyota Management System taught us Pascal Dennis, there's the "QC Story" for defects / problem analysis which I used to draw up with 7 boxes on A3 paper. (Ledger size). Say ? I would like to apply your story approach to Strategy ? You ?

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  2. Well said, Mike. Strategy is indeed about story-telling. Can we boil our situation down to its essence & tell the story on a one-page A3? as you suggest, if we can't do so, we probably don't understand the problem. We're hard-wired for stories (and not for PPT!)

    Best regards, Pascal

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