Read an interesting article over at HBR recently (“Forget the Strategy PowerPoint” by John Kotter) that argues for better ways to articulate high level strategies.
The gist is that it’s already hard to communicate a strategy anyway but even harder when all you have is a bunch of slides. People’s attention is often divided and it’s easy to misinterpreted complex ideas without the full context driving the strategy, etc. So why not ditch the strategy presentations altogether in favor of telling more exciting stories centered around “big opportunities” instead?
In his article Kotter focused on challenges that executives often face when unveiling strategies to their organizations. Whatever difficulties the CEO faces in make an argument down from the top, we can all probably speak from experience that it can be even harder going the other way and selling ideas upward. So maybe this “opportunity philosophy” could hold water at any level of the organization?
Kotter suggests that where full blow strategy statements can be long and complicated, effective opportunity statements are simpler and easier to communicate. Some of the most important characteristics include keeping them short (half page or less), rational (grounded in current reality), compelling, positive, authentic, clear, and aligned with existing goals. The inset figure shows an overview of how to connect the opportunity vision to change.
In many ways this falls right in line with conversations we've been having with many of you this year around several key areas of opportunity such as business resiliency, operational risk, and of course my personal favorite, regulatory and corporate compliance. Those of you that attended the Archer Summit saw this underscored throughout the week and in fact many of you were the ones actually driving those discussions and telling the best stories of all!
So for fun let’s give Mr. Kotter’s theory a try. Here’s a possible take on the big opportunity that exists in the area of regulatory and corporate compliance. And while we’re at it, how about we throw in a nautical theme after last week in the desert? Here goes…
For some industries regulatory scrutiny has been a daily reality for decades. However the days of “those guys” being the only ones with compliance challenges are long gone. Today any modern enterprise regardless of industry is feeling the pain especially when it comes to technology and protecting sensitive information. This is on top of merely trying to keep the business afloat amidst the increasingly dicey seas of global competition.
Since compliance is NOT the average company’s main business focus, this rising tide of obligations serves to increasingly distract companies from their core missions. Costs and negative effects on productivity continue to pilfer resources away from strategic initiatives, squeezing companies from both sides until their only options left are bad ones. Which poison should they pick? Do they continue ratcheting up compliance spending as their business suffers setbacks? Or do they hold fast and roll the risk dice against a negative event such as a security breach or serious violation? An armada of competitors is on the horizon while regulatory sharks constantly patrol for their next meal. Not the situation to be in with a leaky boat and a nervous crew.
Imagine a different world with calm seas and favorable winds where compliance wasn't nearly so painful or expensive because things just “worked” as they should. What if your compliance program could be like a fast, watertight ship gliding effortlessly across the open water and speeding safely to whichever ports of call beckoned the business next? What if your crew were so practiced they could respond to changing conditions with minimal effort and without drifting off course or losing speed?
We believe this describes how a streamlined compliance program should function. Companies that embrace this philosophy stand to fundamentally transform compliance from a success barrier into a true competitive advantage. They will prosper while their competitors are tossed about in the wake, struggling to keep up. This is not a future fairy tale. The capabilities are here today with a clear direction to navigate for those adventurers that choose to set sail on these compliance winds of change.
Is there a new story you'd like to tell around your dockside water cooler? We can help!