Lipstick on a pig: a pretty picture does not absolve a poor strategy.
The trend of strategy-big-pictures
Over the past years, we have seen a growing number of Finnish companies and organisations deliver their strategies in broadly the same visual format (try searching for "strategia kuvat"). A pretty “big-picture”, a metaphorical representation of a perfect world. With blue skies, green grass, rising cityscapes, and non-specific people in a non-specific city going about their non-specific lives. Interspersed with the strategy wording. A mission here, a vision there. Values, megatrends, targets, priorities, principles, all scattered in the clouds, shiny building fronts and lush lawns. Presumably meant to be easy to approach and inspire the whole organisation to live and breathe strategy.
Nothing wrong in principle, but when looking at the content, it’s mostly lipstick on a pig.
Follow the example at your peril -warning
The problem with the approachable, kid’s picture book -style strategy presentations is the distraction they provide from a lack of substance.
A good strategy is concrete, highly informative, and so sharply articulated that everyone in the organisation can do their part and put it into practice. Every day. Glossing over the specifics, throwing in all the latest buzzwords, being shamelessly generic and then expecting to inspire people to do fantastic work, is a fallacy. Also, a travesty of the hard work and human hours that presumably go into strategy work in companies and organisations. Hide the logo and you can’t tell these companies apart.
Unless all of this is just PR? The sharp strategy document hidden away in the inner chambers, shared on a need-to-know basis only. What is openly shared is there to create a perception of worthy goals and plans, not to divulge any actual information. Or, as is the global mode, not risking offending anybody. What to share and how is of course everyone’s own choice, BUT there’s a responsibility the big companies should shoulder for being a bad example. Because other organisations with lesser resources get hyped about this kind of stuff and believe it’s the way to greatness. They attempt to follow suit by actually building their strategies based on these easy-to-approach, light-on-the-content fake-worlds. Focusing on the way the information is presented instead of the actual content.
Actions not distractions
A great strategy doesn’t need a pretty picture, kind of the opposite. If you have strong, exciting ideas of your future in the game and how to get there, then getting the words right by pouring truth, meaning and bold emotion into them, is what matters. People tend to engage and listen. Then there’s a good chance that they are motivated to figure out the details for themselves and take the right personal action.
Sure, an eye-catching presentation with sharp infographics and a killer layout makes a difference too, but that should be the vehicle, not the end goal and focus of attention.
Let us state here that we also vehemently believe that companies and organisations should have only one top strategy. Not one for the business and one for the brand, as is often the case. This only leads to confusion and conflicting goal setting.
Instead of visualising Westworld cities plastered with platitudes, feel free to use Werklig’s strategic framework to check that you have the main pieces of the puzzle figured out and well defined.