For some strange reason, complex and lengthy are believed to the requirements for a strategic plan. Exactly the opposite is true.
The best ‘game changing’ strategic plans fit on one page, they are simple, setting out where the organisation needs to go. Concise, easily understood by management and staff, a single page visual map where everyone understands the focus can have a profound impact. In essence: a one page plan should describe how value is created, how the company differentiates and positions itself.
While annual plans have the word ‘strategic’ on the cover, roughly 90% stress the more ‘to do list’ like operational issues that have to be addressed. Solid more analytical diagnosis, combined with a dash of creativity is usually sorely absent.
Simple and brief does not mean easy — In the words of Steve Jobs: “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.”
It’s embarrassingly easy to be complex, confusing and long winded, never really addressing the essence of the problems. In contrast, creating an elegant approach, by virtue of simplicity requires analytical intelligence and work.
Research suggest that only about 10% of organisations are able to turn their strategy in solid results. One of the reasons for this is that no one really understands the strategy . No one ever really reads the long winded so called strategic plans, that soon get tossed aside, only to gather dust.
One of the advantages of having a clear strategy is, its understandable and can quickly be critiqued, asking: Does this really make sense ? With simplicity one can clearly see the causal linkages, the relationships between objectives, how everything fits together. To take the business to the next level, one needs to get agreements from the senior management on the critical drivers of success and the key performance indicators.
Two possibilities exist — either one creates a strategic plan that is available for all to see, from the CEO to the junior staff who joined the organisation yesterday. Or, one creates a strategic plan for the eyes of management and select staff. After all, the thinking is a real strategic plan, should be a source of competitive advantage, that you don’t want to share with the competition.
For certain types of companies, non governmental organisations and in the public sector it makes sense to share the strategic plan widely. This let’s everyone know what they are trying to achieve, and in the process creates a feeling of transparency and accountability.
Steve Jobs once called Apple ‘the world’s biggest start-up’ — based on the practice of simplicity, Apple today is one of the world’s most successful companies, with a valuation of US $ 1 trillion. Having a start-up mindset means realising the importance of learning, continually adapting, and evolving to meet the needs to customers.
Remember of the thought of Albert Einstein: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.