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All plans should be burnt….

…and the Chief Executive did just that – in front of his 50 senior managers.

Recently the Managing Director of a client organisation was presenting their strategy to the senior managers. He started by openly admitted that he got the phrase “All plans should be burnt” from me and said he wanted to burn his strategy.

However, as he was in a hotel conference room, and there was a smoke alarm above his head, he would have to simply rip it up this time… and he did.  There in front of them all.  He then proceeded explain and tell the story of their strategy.

Why burn all plans and strategies?

The reason I say, “All plans should be burnt” is very simple.

Our people are continuously making decisions, on a day-to-day basis, that influence the strategy.  They do not refer to plans every 5 minutes. They rely on what is in their heads.  So,

  1. IF the organisation’s strategy and plans are in people’s heads, then people act on them and they get executed.  In this case it is safe to burn the plans, as the plans have served their purpose of communicating the strategy.
  2. IF the plans are not in peoples’ heads, then they are being ignored, are a waste of time, and you might as well burn them.

Either way, all plans should be burnt.

Auditors don’t like you burning all strategies and plans

Of course auditors don’t like this, but what does that matter. If they want to find out whether the strategy is understood and working, they can do the same as anyone else. If a strategy is sitting on a shelf it is not being implemented. Go and ask those who should be implementing it.

Phil Jones
Author “Communicating Strategy”