Chris Paton shared insights about how to develop a successful strategy, gathered from a distinguished career in the marines and as a professional advisor to business.
We caught up with him at the Annual Conference…
Insight 1 – communication is the point
Developing a strategy takes time and reflection. But it’s only half the battle. Communicating it successfully is where most businesses fall down says Paton.
‘What does a good strategy look like? Maybe it has vision and mission, though we are not always sure of the difference between the two. Then we add objectives, timelines, constraints and risks. What happens when you try and put all that in a document? It’s too much for other people to take in,’ says Paton.
To illustrate his point, he throws a handful of sweets to a delegate and asks, how many were you able to catch?
Insight 2 – boil down the message
Paton suggests boiling down the strategy into an intent statement of no more than 100 words.
‘You give people just enough information to get them headed in the right direction. Instead of giving all the reasoning, you include a pinch of objectives, a dash of vision, a twist of constraints and a hint of how, etc.
‘The intent statement becomes a guide so people know which way to head when they have a decision to make. It’s something they can recall and actually use.’
Insight 3 – freedom in a framework
When it comes to putting ideas into action, Paton offers his thoughts. ‘People say that leadership is about getting people to own the plan. In the military, we went a step further. We got them to write the plan themselves.’
That requires trust. Trust can be daunting, and can sometimes backfire. So a good way forward is to make it safe by giving “freedom within a framework”. ‘Define the direction you want to go, such as I want more corporate clients. Then set the constraints in terms of risk or costs. Then ask them to come back with their plan.’
Paton learned in the military that you don’t have time to get to know people and decide if you are going to trust them. ‘I have to give you 100% of my trust up front, it’s then yours to lose.
‘The funny thing is that I have seen again and again over the years, the more I have trusted people and given the permission to fail, the less they actually do.’
David Nunn is Content Manager at AAT .