Monday, December 10, 2012

Communicating Strategy

We began this course examining the history of strategy in military. Especially in the battlefield, effective and quick down-the-ranks communication of the strategy is primary. Failure of doing so, in any of the ranks could mean ineffective execution of the strategy or even worse units of the fighting each other. In team sports as well, a coach and the captain would vouch for the importance of effective communication of the game plan. Sport and combat have a lot in common. So seems the case for businesses and organizations as per the work of Collis and Rukstad, ‘Can you say what your strategy is?’. Companies that don’t have a simple and clear strategy are often seen to fail in execution of strategy.

Simplicity in strategy means higher effectiveness with which it can be communicated within the organization and beyond. This is makes sense for all kind of companies pursuing an opportunity strategy in fast moving markets like those in the new economy. In the writing ‘Strategy as Simple Rules’ by Sull and Eisenhardt, the writers emphasize the need for a strategy articulated succinctly and lucidly into simple rules which would guide managers through the confusion of turbulent markets. Some very apt examples of realization of these rules has been seen in the Tech Industry by organizations like Akamai, Intel, Cisco and Nortel. These simple rules for action helped managers align activities with the corporate objectives in an environment of unpredictability. The exploratory article by Neilson et al delves into the identified traits of organizational effectiveness. This writing reinforces the idea that effective flow of information is essential for good execution.

In a Fast Company article by the head of the design firm IDEO, Tim Brown ; he talks about the woeful inadequacy of traditional tools - spreadsheets and powerpoint decks. According to Brown, words are a powerful tool, but only for a supremely engaging storytellers. People who can communicate a visceral understanding of why you've chosen a particular strategy. Since strategy often gets mired in abstractions he introduces the radical idea of using design to communicate strategy. As in case of Motorola, he says designers are able to use prototypes, scenario or films to describe the strategy by helping people emotionally experience it. Can this method of communicating strategy be the next big thing that would help companies bring clarity to their strategy?

References and further readings:

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