Strategic Waffle Anyone?
The anatomy of a strategic plan is an interesting thing, for the most part they follow a standard approach and framework. At the highest level we have an extremely broad, all encompassing statement. It must be so broad that it encapsulates everything that the organization strives to be and stands for. It must be delivered succinctly in as few words as possible so there is no room for misinterpretation.
Best practice at the top
Our best practice approach is a message less than 10 words and about 60 characters in length, let’s call it the vision statement (although it should be labeled using the phraseology of the organization; mission, goal etc). It is almost always backed up by a more detailed mission statement. At StrategyBlocks our vision statement has 9 words and 50 characters:
“Stay focused on improving our customers ability to execute”
Best practice from the middle-down
The next level is slightly less waffley and therefore more definitive, and this continues to be the process from top to bottom. Eventually we will reach a level of strategic decomposition that is so specific and granular that all trace of waffle has vanished. Of course when we are delegating execution responsibility we need to be as clear as possible.
This is a fundamental and important concept in the delivery and communication of strategic thinking. It is known as the MECE principle (pronounced “me see”) and it stands for mutually exclusive (ME) and collectively exhaustive (CE).
At StrategyBlocks our “vision” is exhaustively described by a series of “core strategies”; sound governance, product innovation, marketing & communication, customer engagement, and the last I am going to keep to myself. But each core strategy is mutually exclusive, and collectively they will enable the execution of our vision, exhaustively. It is interesting to observe the level of sensitivity as we drill-down through the structure top to bottom.
Top secrets and transparency
Organizations will go to great lengths to share their vision publicly, sometimes adding it as a logo strapline, yet their portfolio of strategic tactics will most likely be a tightly guarded internal secret. Within StrategyBlocks we encourage strategic transparency, for improved communication and collaboration; but we also provide a security model to isolate branches of strategic activity when appropriate.
Strategic waffle is a key part of describing any strategic plan, it helps us group, classify and understand complex tasks. It creates simplicity and clarity, top to bottom, bottom to top and horizontally across all the operational levels of the enterprise.