24 February 2012

Grand Pictorial Strategies But Executable?

Grand Strategies are impressive but not sufficient. Know how to make them clearer and be executable that the grand dreams may be realized.
A friend shared the following Grand Strategies of Geisinger Healthcare System on transforming the healthcare delivery system in USA on Facebook.

Most people will be impressed by such a drawing and grand strategies.

Which Ones you like better?
While I am for a visual mapping, I am not a strong supporter for freehand mind-maps unless they are well drawn. Many freehand mind-maps are meant for the author only (only him alone understands the pictures and mess) and not for sharing.  It is much easier and better to mind-map with a computer software (even though the drawing capability of mind-map software still have much rooms for improvement). The above Healthcare Strategy Map is in fact very good and clear. However, I still prefer a software drawn one to be clearer. So I remap it using a software mind-map (Mindjet's mind-manager software) as show below:

The above software drawn mind-map while not as impressive looking as the hand drawn one is at least clearer and much easier when additional information are added.

Are the Strategies Executable?

Grand strategies like above seems to tell us a lot and yet at the same time tell us very little. It is good to have right care, right workflow etc. But what does right care look like? What flow is right and what is wrong? What are right resources and what are wrong? Facing the right elephant in the room is a powerful and motivating thought, but how can we tell if there is an elephant in the room? How to think outside the box when we don't know what the box is? Any outcome is the result of multiple interacting factors. Will the raising of one bar of one factor such as speed, comes at the expense of say quality? You can see quickly that asking a few more in-depth questions, you will not be too impressed because of the lack of clarity and potential conflicting objectives.

Making Strategies Executable - Measure & Target Setting
The way to make strategies executable is to have greater clarity. One easy is to define a measure. How to you measure 'rightness'? Measurement needs not always be a exact real number. Measurement could be in integer, a real number, a rank of position, a ration, a rate etc. It could be fussy as well. Someone even you different cartoon pictures to show the 'friendliness of smiles"! Measurement is best without complex instrumentation and calculation and be as obvious to notice as possible. For example, if you go into a food court, how can you tell which station food is most tasty? You can just observe the queue length. Measure can also be the completion of an event. Asking for a measure helps us to refine our thoughts.

Next is to set targets. Targets tell us how expectation and whether we have achieved them.  JFK's famous statement on "landing a man on moon by the end of decade" is a clear target. (Implied in the statement is a safe return of a living person).

Watch-out for Conflicting Targets
Real life system works on interaction of multiple factors. Hence, just measuring alone does not fully solve our execution problem. Do we go for speed at the sacrifice of quality? Project Managers are clear about the interplay of factors like time, functions, costs and quality. Unless there is an innovation ( a new way of doing things, or new types of materials etc), increasing one factor will take place at the expense of others.

Watch-out for Increasing or Decreasing Returns of Factors.
The real world does not work linearly as well. There are laws of diminishing and at times increasing returns. Hence, just raising the bar may not work after awhile. e.g. salary alone as an incentive. (Not convinced? Read Dan Pink's Drive Book or E W Deming work on intrinsic and extrinsic motivations).

So, Do we still need Grand Strategies?
Yes. You need to consolidate and integrate the thoughts of many people. But my main point is not to stop there but refine further and make them clearer so that people can execute them and achieve their dreams that the Grand Strategies are designed to do.

Grand Strategies are a good start but continue on to get clarity and executability if there be such a word!

Lim Liat (C) 24 Feb 2012
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