3 Key Elements to Navigating the Strategy Maze

Complexity vs Clarity

Organizations are faced with a trade-off when considering how they operationalize their strategic plan. Many complex businesses have elements of a matrix structure with multiple lines of accountability; therefore, a department or project may be an ‘enabler’ of multiple high-level strategic goal areas or initiatives. This is a logical approach to take when overlaying the plan onto the business’s organizational structure. However, although it may be theoretically correct, is it the best approach?

The battle is between complexity and clarity, and how much of one can you trade to achieve the other. There is little point productionizing a strategic plan that no one can relate to or understand. A complex, maze-like presentation of the plan also creates the potential for ambiguity, which is the enemy of accountability.

Steve Jobs was right when he said, ”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.”

Key Elements

Jobs was absolutely correct: it is hard to see past the complexity and pare down your plan. So what’s the answer?

#1 – Think about what the Senior Leadership Team need to measure for execution performance, and allow that to drive the shape of the plan. What data do they need, and how is it organized and consumed?

#2 – When laying out the plan, stay focused on operational output and not organizational values. Values are very important and need to be included, but perhaps not as a formal part of the execution hierarchy. Think of them more as a filter. Example: “show me everything relating to customer engagement” or “what part of our plan relates to sustainability”.

#3 – Do not confuse output with outcome. Many times we have seen companies try to include metrics (KPIs) in the plan’s structure. Example: “Sell more widgets → Widget rev ($) → 2019 Widget sales plan” or “expand digital marketing → # tweets → 2019 Marketing Plan”. Revenue and number of tweets are linked outcomes of a successful sales or marketing plan, not part of the organization’s deliverable output.

Keep it Simple

There are many ways to reduce the complexity of the digital representation of a strategic plan, consider the role of each element and keep it simple. With a clear, concise plan you can move mountains.