Nope, a bloody menace — that’s what it is.
I had the privilege of meeting a roomful of inspiring people this week. Passionate people seeking truth — camped out at the bleeding edge of a long-running riddle.
Our host and leading protagonist did an incredible job of laying out the terrain. A parched desert of mediocrity in need of scorched earth policy. An overdue call to arms — reinventing what the word S T R A T E G Y means for the world — now!
There was a lot of swearing.
Strategy 2.0 — Relieving Oneself
* Health Warning — There are xx Fucks in this article but when you see them they are spelt like this — F#@k so as to not offend. But Lalochezia is a thing so get over it — and I am a sufferer — and any chance I get to say Fuck I’m probably going to. Especially when it comes to strategy. Lalochezia — a. (lal’ō-kē’zē-ă), Emotional discharge gained by uttering indecent or filthy words. [G. lalia, speech, + chezō, to relieve oneself]
Some Inconvenient Truths
Below is a list of stuff that adds to the map. We all agreed we needed to rewrite the boundaries of this map. The world needs unconventional wisdom. Creativity has never been more required. Normal people need not apply. It’s ‘normal’ that got us into this mess.
In some cases, we have to accept the realities of a landscape that’s always in flux— in others carve new road systems and detonate the cathedrals of stupidity.
The Certainty Of Uncertainty*
Is there anyone alive that doesn’t get this now?
There’s no f#@king doubt we live in uncertain times. What is certain is how uncertain things are. So, what use is strategy — even if we knew what that word meant?
People told the strategic outcome three to five years out —
- Don’t take any notice
- Don’t do anything differently as a result of that knowledge
- Don’t believe it’s going to happen
- Aren’t as interested as the above three would suggest
Err… What The F#@K?
The Elitist Menace Of Strategy
In business — strategy can bring out the worst in people. Strategy flies past almost everyone anyway. At worst it’s — ‘Who gives a f#@k?’ At best it’s a widely misunderstood animal. Possibly terminally endangered.
- It’s designed by an elite — or outsourced completely.
- It’s designed by people who are too close to the challenge they can’t see it anyway.
- It’s only partially engaged with by those who really need to be deeply engaged.
- In many cases, it’s designed inflexibly by those with a partial interest. It can’t deal with uncertainty.
Preparation* As Strategy
Being Prepared — That’s it — given we don’t have a clue what’s happening next week. Let’s just be ready to deal with whatever comes while knowing where we are going. For me strategy is survival equipment. It’s scaffolding that keeps the business up while the place is being rebuilt — every day — forever.
“It’s all about being prepared. Strategy is knowing where you aim to go and having the smartest possible defence against a gazillion surprises. Every day…”
We all like to say we’ve anticipated things. While that may be true we most definitely haven’t got everyone in the business knowing what that means.
You know — do they have the tools to do what’s required when it all goes tits up? Do they have the bigger story in their heads? F#@K No
Two Reasons We Need A F#@king Strategy
Let’s assume the vast majority of the enterprise give a shit. They are actively involved and inspired and can be properly communicated with. Let’s assume they are willing collaborators — conspiring to bring about the ambition.
Now re-apply the idea of strategy as the best possible preparation. What would you do?
The Only Point Of Strategy 2.0.
- Knowing where you want to go — keeping a clear hold on the intention
- Knowing how to sort out the choices to get there* — and being able to make the best decisions when everything changes.
* But doing it all the time. All the time. As things change it’s important to act accordingly. All the time. Knowing what to do and when — and why. At every turn. Whatever happens. The software industry calls this extensibility. Building in the ability to correct course in the face of what’s hitting us in the face. Did I say all the time?
Knowing What Priority Means
I don’t know if this is faithful but it works for me — Steve Jobs would ask everyone to list their priorities. He would write them down. He would arrive at a list of ten — from a hundred — then reduce it — to three or if possible one.
Imagine how much stuff would get done if there was concerted effort of this type? A mentality where there’s one best thing to do at the moment. It can be a pretty big thing. Imagine if we could do that in concert — as a whole. Imagine if we were equipped to know what that one thing was. Always able to make the best choice*.
* Making Decisions — A useful way to think of ‘strategy’ is as a plan that’s been deliberately chosen by those that are going to deliver it. To me that’s everyone. That requires a kind of distributed Decision Quality. Love those two words they go brilliantly together. The greatest definition of a decision I ever heard was — ‘an irrevocable allocation of resources’. And insight of the day — we never know if a decision is a good one until later —long after the decision was made. And if it’s not irrevocable then it’s not a decision it’s an intention. Be clear on that or risk pissing everyone around you off.
Semantics? Nope. Menace
Like many a word — strategy has been f#@ked. It’s been hijacked as something mysterious. It’s been hyped and packaged up beautifully by those with a vested interest — to be bought for an eye-bleedingly rich price. By people who should know better.
But the secret is out — it’s just getting important stuff done in a purposeful way — by the people who need to know.
It’s wrong to blame the word. I blame the industry that grew up around it. The average business has a habit of outsourcing how to get stuff done to people who aren’t going to get stuff done. I’m not digging out consultants but I was a client once.
* Stuff didn’t get done. People resisted, weren’t involved — they formed a resistance movement. We spent $millions for no reason. Nothing changed. We failed, I learned a lot. I’m better for it.
Business Models Meets Mental Models
OK, we all know this. A business model in a digital age is the entire business — how and why it works, who are those with the needs that the business delivers for, how it looks after it’s resources (including its people) and how it makes money and generates value — so as to be successful. How it works. The machinery. That’s platforms, information (data) tools, techniques, standards, principles, rules and stuff like that. All of it. Especially it’s people.
Let’s take strategy consultants — for the sheer fun of it. What’s their business model?
“In the recent past my sense was that far too many a strategy consulting firm’s business model wasn’t focused on solving the problem but finding more problems to go solve. It may be a valid business model (for some) but these days a more valuable business also needs to transfer the capability to the business and then get out of the way — right?…”
When the strategic challenge is that of preparation and you’re relying on an outsourced intelligence — well that can be very high risk indeed.
If we can actually visualise the business model then we create the culture — the mental model to match. Yes I get that robots are about to take all our jobs* but that’s a whole different conference. This raises the only principle left. Businesses are about shipping value and impact or they can f#@k off. It requires encouraging us (human beings) to want to work to achieve the outcome — to actually give a flying f#@k.
“Any business designed for success in the 2oth century is doomed to failure in the 21st…” — David Rose, The Singularity University
If culture means anything it’s the mentality, attitude and values required for people to care— values that have integrity and authenticity — ‘the way of being’ around here. Culture is that which encourages ownership, involvement — thinking and working — stuff that’s designed to be in place naturally — and thrill the f#@k out of everyone all the time.
Otherwise, I’m outa here.
* I don’t think Robots are going to take all our jobs. Just all the ones that can be replaced by robots. Oh wait…! Seriously, that Marc Cuban chap says that the jobs humans will do in the future will be about creativity and critical thinking. Cool huh?
Strategy Is Story
That Can Be Told
And believed in.
So, for me, strategy is observable by the number of people in the firm who can tell the story fluently. Observable by their ability to swivel and twiddle about in the face of the fist coming. A strategy is the ‘life support system’ of today’s business armed with the ‘tools’ to think and decide — beginning and ending with the practical executable narrative — the actual story of how stuff gets done — and why. It’s deeply felt.
“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.” — Thomas Edison. A F#@K of a long time ago.
Strategy By Meetings
I’m against meetings. If someone asks me to attend a meeting I ask what are we going to do/make/build. I like makers — people who ship product. I ask what is going to be the product of the meeting.
“We are having a meeting — so that…?