Updated: Oct 7, 2020
With the world tilted sideways, strategising and planning has taken a back seat as governments, companies and employees work to navigate an endless obstacle race.
It seems to me survival right now is about perpetually moving, somewhere, anywhere. Never mind the danger of drowning under too many tasks or banging up against resistance in a fast-moving river. We keep our head down navigating the rapids because what else can we do?
It made me wonder, though, is all this activity leading to success?
There are three months left to 2020. Most of us want to survive the year, body intact. But what about stopping and taking a breather to strategise a forward plan today? Because,
“Rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction.”
And that’s why, no matter how wild, strange and unpredictable things are, it’s essential to get out of the boat, sit on the shore (even briefly) to design a strategy for tomorrow.
Having a strategy in place can help us set the right course, and even help us finish the race in 2020 in front or further ahead.
I know what you’re thinking, “Sure, it would be nice to strategise but I’ve got hundreds of emails to answer, endless online meetings to attend and a list of action items as long as the Murray River.”
To Play The Right Game Well, Write A Plan
Plus, you’re good at strategising in your head. Yeh, me too. Sometimes though, to make our plans solid and our ideas worthy of execution, we have to write them down.
Writing a strategy is also important if you’re leading a team, and you need to share your strategy with them especially if you want the team to get on board and be willing to row bloody hard with you and for you, as one united crew.
A Strategy You Can Put In Your Back Pocket
What you need is the ability to strategise effectively yet quickly. And in a way where it’s possible to jot it all down on one page or a slide, or on a few sticky notes, even scratch it out on a dinner napkin.
So, to help you formulate a strategy you can roll up and tuck behind your ear, I’ve got something for you.
I’ve called it The Game Plan, a framework on a page to zero-in on a strategy and add your evolving tactics. Strategise in one hour or three, write it in pencil, not in ink. Or type on a screen, so you can adjust and proceed, or Save As, to start again.
Here it is below. It looks simple, and it is simple but it’s hard to do because it makes us switch off our System One, Fast Thinking, we’re so hooked into right now and switch on our System Two, Slow Thinking, something we’re a little out of practice with these days.
You’ll notice that I’ve included a section on tactics/action plan because a strategy on its own – even a brilliant one is just theory.
It pains me to say this, but I’ve been involved in many strategy sessions where we came up with a great plan that went nowhere because we didn’t execute.
Formula: Strategy + Tactics = Success
While the above strategy framework fits on a page, it challenges you to think deeply and test your rationales. That’s good, because,
“Proper preparation prevents poor performance.”
Next, The Master Plan And Commit To Action
So, you’ve plotted your strategy on a page and added some high-level tactics. Now it’s time to create The Master Plan so you can execute with some confidence, I say, some because too much confidence in this twisty world is a bad thing. Still, you want to make a deliberate choice about how you navigate the course because,
“If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone else’s strategy.”
What you need is a template for your master plan. Nothing fancy. Something that also fits on a page. And, because I like you, I’ve created one you can use. See below.
What’s different about The Master Plan to The Game Plan is that it summarises your strategy and places focus on the tactics, especially putting people’s names against what it is they’ll be responsible for and dates for milestones.
Use The Rule of Three To Deliver
I like using the Rule of Three for lots of things like explaining concepts in a narrative or when planning world domination. Three stages of a plan are easy to remember. Three milestones for every stage is easy to keep track of also. And having a view of your strategy on the left-hand side means your tactical steps will be aligned to the mission and desired result.
Let’s Drive In Reverse. What Could Possibly Happen?
Now, any well-laid plan is bound to go awry if we don’t take into account our weaknesses (blind spots, blind faith, lack of resources), and threats (competition or social, economic or environmental upheavals) so the trusted SWOT makes up the trio of templates I’ve got for you. (See, all good things comes in three.)
Oh, you groan, boring old SWOT. She’s losing me.
Hang on, this SWOT is a bit different.
It’s an Inverted SWOT. Have you ever done one? If you have, then like me, you like things inside out and upside down. In any case, do the Inverted SWOT (see below). It will help you review the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your strategy much better.
There you have it—the trio of triumph: A Game Plan, A Master Plan and the mind-bending, Inverted SWOT. Three one-page tools you can use to develop a strategy and tactics to make things happen, to shake things up, to get things going, the way you want them to.
Next on your list is some way to communicate the right message to the right audience. Because when it comes down to it, much of the success of your strategy and tactics depend on your ability to influence people: either to follow you on the road less travelled, believe in your big idea, or invest in your products or services.
Hm, well, I’ve got some frameworks for that too, and they also come as a power package of three: (1) Bridge of Alignment, (2) Message Blueprint and (3) Message Map. You can find them in this post.
Until then, to your success developing a finely-drawn and executed strategy.
PS: If you want a copy of any of the frameworks, download them here.
“Rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction”, is from organisational theorist Kenichi Ohmae on the difference between being efficient and being effective, I found on James Clear’s newsletter. James is the author of Atomic Habits.
System One and System Two Thinking is by Daniel Kahneman, Author of Thinking Fast and Slow.
“Proper preparation prevents poor performance”, is by Stephen Keague.
“If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone else’s strategy”, is by Alvin Toffler.