Apart from foreseeing skills, my experiments with strategy have taught me critical thinking and questioning. And when it comes to strategy implementation, ‘the how’ matter more than ‘the what’. Which question, how to frame the argument, and what to include in the plan are some essentials to know when it comes to strategy. With these skills, one must be able to solve problems irrespective of the educational background or work experience.
“I do believe that a well-framed question is a problem half solved.”
It starts with the vision and direction:
Every plan begins with the vision and direction. The most comfortable and most effective tool to set vision and direction is Simon Sinek’s famous TEDx talk. He advocates that the golden circle for setting purpose must start with why move on to how and end with what. The step that helps set the purpose offered by the golden circle is second to none.
So I thought that this simple formula is all it takes when it comes to planning and formulating an effective strategy. If the plan obeys the golden circle then what else is needed…right?
The formula works but,
Often at times what we plan may not work. In spite of carefully setting the direction with the golden circle, the implementation part might just not work.
Framing a strategy makes sense only when it is put into effect. If you intervened with creating the plan, then you will have to take it till it is implemented. The choice of staying till the end is left to you.
“A ship will be perfectly safe if it is in the harbour, but that is not why it was built.”
This is where “the how” will matter more than “the what.”
I worked on planning for a 4-week campaign for two months. In the two months, I went for a survey, analysis, interviews, an A/B test, five brainstorming sessions. So you can imagine the amount of thought that went for a campaign. I realised this the hard way that the plan was not implemented and hence the two-months of work did not yield the expected results.
The following list of questions guides me when I frame a plan.
1 – How will the team understand the plan?
Communicate communicate communicate. The team has to understand the purpose of the plan. The team must also understand why the plan is framed, how one step unfolds to the next and so on. It helps if you involve the team right from planning. Do not proceed further without completing this step.
2 – How will resources be used for this plan?
Without the needed assets and resources, how do you think the team will implement the plan? Creating a plan to acquire resources after realising the scarcity of recourses is a waste of time. Be careful; you do not want to lower the quality as it might impede the outcomes.
3 – How can the team overcome difficulties?
It is vital that you analyse the strengths and weakness of the team or organisation that will use the plan you give them. Use the magic crystal and brainstorm with the team and find the possible difficulties the organisation might face. More the detail, better the chance the team can overcome problems and save time.
4 – How do we make sure the feedback is regularly obtained?
A plan will be sustainable if it self-evolves. You need feedback. You can’t say that your job is over once you hand over the blueprint. Now is the time when your intervention comes into play. Regularly get feedback from every stakeholder and keep iterating the plan with the changes. At one point you will attain sustainability.
5 – How can we make the plan easier?
When you plan there is a good chance for you to get idealistic. The hows of your strategy need smart work. Look for the more straightforward alternatives. The only problem you might face is if you alter the course of the entire plan. And hey, keep a tap on ethics and values.
The five hows are not the only questions you need to think about when it comes post setting the vision and purpose; the five are the vital few that have risen from my past experiences. You can not always complete what you started. So, when it comes to planning for yourself or someone else, understand the hows.
Simon Sinex’s TEDx talk
The talk gives us his perspective on how we should set the purpose for any work through a structural framework. By listening to the speech, the examples he provides will help you better understand the golden circle.