Clear Messages At The Heart Of Strategy
Before you can experience innovation and organisational excellence,
the aspirational messages and goals must be clearly articulated.
Innovation just doesn’t ‘happen’, nor does devoting a day or two workshopping the topic necessarily fire up the organisation. Before even taking this step, it is probably best to think about what it actually means for you and your team.
For many, innovation will not be the next ‘killer app’ or moving to autonomous operations. Perhaps the best and most concise appreciation of what innovation can be, came during a dialogue I had with a team of medical research professionals. One in particular explained that the goal for his newly established research wing in a private health provider, was ‘to institutionalise the hero researcher’.
It was clear to me that in a very concise and clear statement, he had encapsulated an achievable yet demanding and complex aspiration. It was easily translatable to all level of his organisation and a clear and easily understood goal for his bosses. It was to me of equivalent quality to President John F. Kennedy’ s well-known moon statement:
‘We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too’.
This triggered perhaps one of the most innovative of all technical and organisational efforts in human history. Again, so much effort, challenge and difficulties wrapped up in a clear statement.
This is reflected in high performing military organisations as well. The respected academic Martin Van Creveld in one of his earlier works Fighting Power, provides an excellent example. One particular unit fighting in Italy during World War II proved itself time and time again to be more capable and effective. The unit was studied by the US army, as it was raised at the same time, equipped with the same equipment and drawn from the same area of the United States and experienced identical training as two other units. Yet it was seen by the opposing Germans as an ‘elite’ unit. The difference was an experienced, and well-regarded leader, who although past retirement age at the commencement of World War II, was personally exempted by the then Chief of the US Army to be allowed to serve. He possessed a disciplined yet open leadership style. He interacted with as many of his staff as possible, demanded and lived by high standards, but ensured all were also rewarded equally. He relied on relatable, clear and easy-to-understand messages to his staff. He had institutionalised the ‘hero soldier’ across a unit of nearly 10,000 people. Something the specific nature and structure of militaries does assist with.
Regardless of the organisation clear, aspirational yet viable messages need to lie at the core of any strategy. Their power can literally take you to the moon.
About the Author:
Jason Thomas is the Founder of de Montaigne Strategic Planning, which provides robust strategic planning and training services to small to medium-sized enterprises, not-for-profit organisations and government departments.
He has over 30 years’ experience in senior leadership, operational and planning roles across the military, public and private sectors. In addition, Jason holds numerous degrees and qualifications including Gold Mastery Certification with the Haines Centre for Strategic Management.