Saturday, December 10, 2011

Strategy – Thinking And Speaking (A.K.A Can You Tell Me What You Are Thinking?)


Strategy has always been of the pivotal cornerstones of organizations. Yet, it is also one of the easiest of entities to be misunderstood. People always believe that they think the right way and say the right things. In this blog post, I would like to focus on one specific way of thinking that might help you set your organization’s strategy and a few pointers on how to put your strategy into words so that everyone can execute your brilliant strategy.

Thinking The Rooted Way

Managers have been formulating strategies for decades. One feeling that is unanimous is that there is no right way of thinking and coming up with a strategy. However, there are some well-known ways and some not-so-known ways. One of the latter kinds is the Rooted Maps approach. Pankaj Ghemawat explains in the McKinsley Quarterly how to re-think your point of view in a global sense.

In today’s world, we have boundaries not merely on maps but also in our heads. This forms one of the restrictive blocks to creative thinking and execution. We are currently constrained by imaginary lines on maps that define the reach of our strategies. However, we need to understand that these boundaries are not relevant to our plan, but that there are other boundaries that need to be drawn to make sense as far as our organizations are concerned. For eg: let’s take Apple and try to decode the world. We will see that the majority of Apple’s sales come from Americas. However, it is important to note that India, Australia and Europe are also major contributors. However, other countries in Asia and Africa are not even on the rooted maps that we can draw for Apple. The former countries are drawn bigger than their actual sizes to conform to the amount of sales that they generate. The latter ones are drawn smaller to show that they contribute lesser. This makes it easier to visualize the world from Apple’s point of view.

How does this help, you ask? Well, one of the most important ways this helps Apple will be to find out which countries to focus new marketing on and which countries to focus customer retention policies on. Also, Apple can focus on extending spread in established countries and starting new factories in other countries. Other rooted maps can be drawn taking into consideration factors such as product lines, market share, number of years, etc. This will help in risk identification and assessment as well.

Saying Out Aloud The Right Way

· Why don’t they understand what I am trying to say?

· Why don’t my employees work as per our mission and strategy?

· Why are my projects always turned down at the end?

Managers often face questions similar to these in an organization without a clue about why they are always on the wrong end of decisions. One of the issues that they might be facing is the lack of simple, clear, and succinct strategy. While it is easy enough to come up with a strategy, it is far more difficult to explain the strategy in an effective way to the hundreds of employees in the organization. Imagine the amount of wrongs that can be done when one employee performs work without knowing the strategy and multiply that a hundred-fold and you end up with chaos. This is exactly what happens in most organizations today.

In my opinion, this is largely due to two reasons:

· Managers feel that they are awesome at articulating things when they are not

· Employees feel that they either understood the strategy or pretend to understand the strategy

In order to circumvent this problem, a strategy statement needs to have three major well-defined components:

· Objective – what the strategy aims to achieve in what time frame

· Scope – where the company is aimed at and where it is not aimed at

· Advantage – what the company has that other companies don’t have

A good strategy should be simple, clear and succinct to ensure that everyone who reads it has a firm understanding of these three key attributes so that the execution is merely dependent on their skills and not on the strategy itself. One way to think about it is: If you can convince me of the worth of your strategy in two minutes or less, I have utter faith in your execution of the strategy to its success.


1. “Remapping Your Strategic Mind-set” – Pankaj Ghemawat

2. “Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?” – David J. Collins, Michael G. Rukstad

3. “Saul Steniberg’s Depiction Of World From New York” -

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