Hi Y’all. Me again.
For those who do not know me, my name is Shahar Larry. I’ve spent most of my career as an innovation consultant and an entrepreneur. This piece is about the futility of Strategy and why I think we should combine tactics into a continuous planning game.
SUIT: “But, what’s your strategy?” —– T-Shirt: “We’re gonna be the world’s #1 blah blah” —–SUIT: [chuckles like an arrogant prick] “No, no, that’s not your Strategy, that’s your vision. I wanna know what’s your Strategy.” —– T-Shirt: “Ah…sorry dude…sure, the Strategy…we’re gonna start locally and expand to Asia within 6 months…we think VAS will be the best way to accelerate.” —– SUIT: [Exasperated] “Man, that’s you’re go-to-market. But what’s your STRATEGY??” —– T-Shirt: [WTF?!] “B2C? B2B2C?” —- SUIT: [Amused] “Business model” —– T-Shirt: [WTF?!] “Freemium?” —– SUIT: [Amused] “Business/Monetization model” —– T-Shirt: “Arrrrrrg…listen…I dunno what to tell you…what do YOU mean when you say Strategy?” —– SUIT: _____________
Like everything else in our world and like all words in natural languages – the meaning of the word Strategy depends on the context, as it changes over time, across geographies, verticals, and other circumstances. In this short piece I’ll try to do two things:
- Provide a [non-exhaustive] glossary for strategy concepts – I use it with both startups and corporations.
- Introduce a few adaptations I found useful – especially in the context of the Age of Surprise [everything changing so fast]
Strategic Identity, Strategy, and Strategic Plan
The most basic corporate purpose that answers the question: Why do we do what we do? This concept has been circulating for some time now. Simon Sinek’s TED talk is the most famous reference.
An effective framework for distilling your strategic identity is the MTP – Massive Transformative Purpose [Introduced by Salim Ismail in his book “Exponential Organizations” – a must read!]. The basic idea is that if an organization wants to grow its impact rapidly (and nowadays, it must) it has to think BIG. The MTP, as its name suggests, is massive, transformative and defines a purpose that people want to follow. Here are a few examples:
•TED: “Ideas worth spreading.”
•Google: “Organize the world’s information.”
•Quirky: “Make invention accessible.”
•Singularity University: “Positively impact one billion people.”
To be clear, although it is important to come up with a short, clear and ambitious statement, the MTP is not a slogan. An MTP is first and foremost an agreed, simple (but not necessarily short) definition of a binding and aspirational purpose. The purpose of the MTP is to ”…capture the hearts and minds—and imaginations and ambitions—of those both inside and (especially) outside the organization.” (EO, p43, SI)
A good, inspirational MTP/Strategic Identity spontaneously creates a culture.
This is my simple answer to what is Strategy (and how it relates to Storytelling). It is answered in the context of the corporate Strategic Identity.
A strategy is a short (1-2) pages document that describes the different avenues, methodologies, and approaches we will employ in order to realize the organization’s purpose. It describes in high level the general approach, the rationale for the marketing efforts, of the development road-map, the hiring approach, go-to-market, business, and monetization models. In a sense, it is the amalgamation of everything out SUIT rejected. (Some people will call it the “What” – because it describes the things we will do to realize our purpose, while others will call it the “How” because it describes the path… Truly, I don’t think it matters, as long as the meaning and format I just described are clear.)
- Important note about Strategy: The strategy is not set in stone and we should expect it to change. In fact, we highly recommend revisiting the strategy at least every 6 months. This doesn’t mean a big strategic project every 6 months or some leadership retreat, it only means that with the business environment changing so fast, adaptive strategies have a huge advantage and management should spend a small amount of time every now and then to question its path.
The strategic plan is dying… It used to be a heavy, brick-like document with details about who does what, when, sometimes exactly how, and while reporting to whom… But that does not work anymore. The time it takes to compile these type of documents makes them obsolete before they are done. A more agile approach is recommended and it entails three main implications:
- Tactrategy – Nowadays the level of detail in a strategic plan is a diminishing gradient. The farther out we look the less detail we provide. It is based on the simple insight that prediction is becoming increasingly difficult.
- Agile and Iterative – A good way to design a strategic plan is to draft something rough, select a specific item from the plan that is both urgent and not resource-heavy (e.g., a new recruiting methodology, outsourcing, approaching a new type of partner, use a new marketing channel), execute, review and derive insight, revisit the plan and change it according to the learning and try again. After a few cycles, you will have a stronger plan and some results to show for…
- Never Done – the strategic plan is never done. It has no deadline. It needs to be organic and changing and alive.
Even with this approach the strategic plan still needs to include, as much as possible: objectives and key results, the resources required for achieving them and timelines.
The Story is a key concept in today’s Strategic Identity and Strategy. It is the story we tell ourselves – inside the company. The story that binds us together and inspires us. It is also the story we tell externally to clients, partners, and investors. As such it is clearly related to the MTP and the strategy. The story demands we identify our true clients and what drives them (emotionally and functionally). A precise story together with a clear strategic identity (MTP) shapes the corporate strategy.
The MTP as a source of attraction
Sometimes people introduce me like this: “This is Shahar, he’s a Storyteller”. I always feel conflicted when they do that. I know that an MTP supported by a good story and an adaptive tactrategy is invaluable. I know it is the marking of greatness. And yet, I many times feel the need to say: “Well, it’s more than just storytelling, I mean that’s the easy part. Uncovering the deep purpose and designing the story is the true mission.” But, my insecurities aside, the MTP is a true source of attraction. Identifying and refining a simple idea that people can gravitate around is massive. It will attract like-minded people, investors, employees, partners, and customers. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend and he said to me that 90% of the success of ICOs can be attributed to storytelling and PR. He meant it pejoratively. He meant to say that it lacks substance. But I think he was spot on. A good story, one that people rally around and invest in has a better chance of becoming a reality and changing the world.
what’s your story?