The answer to complexity is simplicity
Tuesday, 15th February 2022
One month gone, how is your strategy landing?
Time to review focus and adjust as you and your team hit spring. Research points out that up to 90% of strategies fail and this is due to implementation issues including poor communication, weak alignment and lack of real comprehension of what the strategy means on a day-to-day basis, so behaviours do not change and neither does anything else.
The solution is not complicated but can be transformative. I attended a kick-off strategy day with the Timoney Leadership Institute Alumni programme in January. It was an excellent refresher and directly relates what leaders need in these times; a reminder of the power of simplicity when translating strategy to day-to-day activities. Finding focus and clarity is the essence of delivering great growth strategies.
Strategy as we know, is the process of determining how you go from A to B. Best strategies live on one page and provide clarity and focus for everyone. However, what is more usual is that they are complex, causing a lack of engagement and ownership and therefore reducing the impact of their intentions and indeed, their requirements.
As teams will remain distributed for many organisations, the process of staying focused on what really matters is a stumbling block for teams. The pace of change coupled with the changing marketplace context (Covid related, consumer needs, availability of more data, hybrid teams and so on) means that staying on strategy is harder than ever.
Strategy makers need to use heuristics or shorthand reference points so that the right behaviours ensue. This is the basis of successfully implementing strategy, claims Prof. Chris Bingham, Distinguished Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship and Area Chair at UNC Chapel Hill.
Simplicity is the opposite of complexity, but this is what is required to make effective decisions in times of great change.
Finding simple principles to follow that can cut through the maze and keep everyone on course is vital to ensure teams are not only aligned but empowered to make the right decision and stay focused. The best teams do not always win but the more focused ones do.
What are simple rules? They are short cut strategies that save time and effort by focusing our attention and simplifying how we think. There are a few guides on how to make good simple rules. These include that they need to be simple, relevant to the activity and context. They must act as a guide not a prescribed direction. They fall into categories including what to focus on, what not to focus on, what is prioritised, what determines the sequence, how things are done and so on.
Coldplay is a great example of this. Very successful on both sides of the Atlantic, they were extremely disciplined as they followed a few simple rules. This included rules such as: no album should be more than 42 minutes or 9 tracks, always keep mystery, not give many interviews and so on.
They say your diary reflects your priorities – so a good check is to look at your diary and see if it lines up. Too many meetings, too little impact, too little time to invest in developing focus and impact? Maybe that’s a good place to trigger your strategic re-start button and define your growth strategy through simple rules with your team.
Start with great strategy, that is what we do with our clients at MCCP. From there develop your strategic priorities, identify the goals, the key measures and the specific KPIs. Locate the bottlenecks for each. From this, design simple rules for your company with your team. Keep it simple but highly focused and constantly review.
February is a great time to start or to review this. Don’t forget your personal growth and development plan and a great place to start this journey is at the Timoney Leadership Institute by contacting Ronan O’Farrell or Sean O'Kane to discuss how.
If anyone has questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kay McCarthy, CEO & Founder MCCP, The Independent Strategy Agency. Kay did the 2016 Advanced Leadership Programme.