Focus and Simplicity in Strategic Planning

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

According to some experts the majority of strategic plans fail to deliver on what they promise. One of the reasons for this is that many senior managers think that their organization will respond swiftly to the changes demanded by the new strategy. Yet most organizations are very slow at responding to change.

The answer is for managers to remove the obstacles to change. One of the major obstacles is the complexity of modern organizations. Layer upon layer of previous changes result in a web of communications that eventually looks like a plate of spaghetti. And communications is always at the heart of strategy. In fact, you could view communications as the core of your organization’s culture, which is not so much “how we do things around here” but more “how we communicate around here”.  And as Peter Drucker once noted, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

So your system of communications needs to be focused and simplified if your strategy is to stand any chance of success. Here are five tips on how to focus and simplify your strategic communications:

  1. Keep the focus on the end result you want to achieve, e.g. Komatsu used “Circle C” as their focus, which was in reference to their goal of beating out their biggest competitor Caterpillar.
  2. Make certain that your Strategy Story is compelling and easy enough for a twelve year old to understand.
  3. Clear out any projects that have gone past their due date, or do not visibly contribute in a meaningful way to the end result.
  4. Make your Strategy Scorecard uncluttered…less is more
  5. Clear up any confusion concerning roles and responsibilities, especially as they relate to strategy execution

Strategy does not have to be complicated. In fact, new strategic directions demand clarity and simplicity if they are to succeed. Keep demanding focus and simplicity and it will pay off.

  • Dave Wheeler says:

    Great post! Several decades ago I was an Organizational Development Consultant in the US Air Force I came to realize the real value in Strategic Planning was the process more the the product it produced. Goes to the culture point. Giving folks a voice in planning and decision builds management credibilty which is critical to effective plan execution. Engaged employees work harder, innovate more, and focus on continuously meeting performance goals and objectives. Translates the words “people are our most important resource” into credible actions!

    • affinitymc says:

      Hi Dave,
      I couldn’t agree more! Involving people in strategy development and execution is the key to success.

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