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This Chief Executive ran a £100m organisation and considered her environment complex.  As is often the case, her strategy document ran to some 50 pages.  It was a complex environment with multiple stakeholders, different groups of customers customers with quite different needs and offering several discrete services.  (We are talklking the NHS here).  She had the  usual 10-12 strategic objectives that included both influencing the customers and changing the organisation. Unfortunately her team were focused on their own pieces rather than working together as a team.

She wanted to get her strategy clearer and to have her team focus on what mattered, collectively, as well as delivering their specific piece.

However the complex environment, wide remit and lack of clarity meant that making sense of their strategy was not easy – hence so many pages.  In fact, the strategy was more a set of discrete actions and responses rather than a real strategy with a plan.

From 50 pages, to a single page strategy picture

Excitant were asked to take a look at the organisation and its strategy as a part of the strategic balanced scorecard we were being asked to introduce.  So we  talked to the Chief Executive for an hour or so and then took away her strategy.  We returned with a one page picture of the strategy using a model that we use  to make sure we are clear about the organisation and what it does.

She was amazed.  “You have managed to take a very complex situation and present it simply and clearly, on a single page.”  I was  amazed at this as well.  It seemed a rather extreme reaction, to a single picture, but it seems it is a rare ability to bring clarity and simplicity, from complexity, without making it simplistic.  We had achieved that for her.

That picture went on the Chief Executive’s wall as an A0 diagram.  Whenever she had a visitor she would use the picture to take them through what they did as an organisation and how it fitted into the larger picture.

It also had the effect of making it easier for each member of her management team to see how they fitted into the wider picture and could help one another.

From complexity to simple (not simplistic)

One aspect of doing this is to ensure you are manage to make the picture simple, BUT not simplistic.  Simplistic would strip away the complexity and the meaning, leaving a trite, over-simplified and meaningless picture.  In contrast, “simple” means taking all the elements of the strategy and making it into a meaningful story, that removes the over complicated, getting down to the essential detail.

This example was actually for a Workforce Planning and Development team, within a Strategic Health Authority, within the NHS. However, the same has worked and applies in other sectors and organisations.  We have found the same need to make a strategy meaningful, on a single page, in a variety of organisations from manufacturing to the NHS, from retailers to charities,

Subsequently the Chief Executive said that the work we did on this one page strategy and her strategic balanced scorecards was “Instrumental in making them one of the  top performing Workforce Development Confederations in the country”.  I suspect it was largely due to the ability of the Chief Executive, but is is nice to take some reflected glory.

If you are interested in getting your strategy on a single page, or even simply making it more of a coherent story on two or three pages, then give us a call.

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