Aversion to change, office politics and departments that work in silos are perennial problems in many organisations.
So how can firms overcome these hurdles and develop strategies that will deliver effective results?
Former Royal Marine and military strategist Chris Paton’s career has taken him from the battlefields of Kosovo to the boardrooms of BUPA and Shell where he conducts ‘wargames’ – meticulously stress testing and evaluating an organisation’s plans, before committing its vital resources into action.
Paton has gone on to use these same techniques at the European Games in Baku and a flower mill in Benin. So how does he deliver successful strategies across such a wide range of organisations?
“It’s not the plan that matters – it’s the planning” says Paton. “First of all you need to look critically at what you’re doing.” He describes a recent war-game he conducted with Shell. “We had to reach a broad agreement that we wanted to work differently and deliver an analysis and an assessment of the way in which that could be done. Secondly was an agreement on an activity that had to be cut from the plan and whether we needed to go further and cut more.”
Paton emphasises that a good strategy does far more than drive us forward to a preconceived vision. It does not consist of inspirational speeches or ambitious targets for growth. To deliver a good strategy he posits that we must honestly recognise the obstacles we face and develop a coherent and agile plan to overcome them.
“Everyone has a strategy until they get punched in the face” says Paton – quoting controversial boxer Mike Tyson. “What we do is show you how to get back up and make it to the final bell.”
Chris Paton’s six steps to an effective plan that will deliver results
1 – Gather a clear and honest picture of the situation on the ground and how it affects you.
Assemble data, intelligence and insight. A strategist must develop an accurate, objective and multi-layered picture of the way things are right now. Not how they once were or what they might want them to be.
2 – Establish what effects you want to have and what direction you must give.
Having developed a clear understanding of the situation, a strategist must make their intentions clear. What effects does she want to have on the situation? What is the purpose of each effect and and how will progress be measured?
3 – Calculate how and where to best accomplish each action or effect
Develop possible courses of action. There are occasions when options are extremely limited but it is generally preferable to have three or more alternatives.
4 – Evaluate the resources needed to accomplish each action or effect
Courses of action must be feasible and possess the necessary resources to proceed. Those that cannot be supported must be culled from the plan.
5 – Analyse when and where the actions take place relative to each other
Shock and surprise are crucial to winning battles. By concentrating your forces at a decisive place and time you can cut through obstacles and achieve objectives with efficiency and effectiveness.
6 – Get a clear picture of the control measures needed
Given the danger of rapid change, a good plan must be flexible, agile and allow for a number of endings. Plan for exceptional circumstances such as the sudden loss of resources and personnel.
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