My Chess Master coach Richard used to taunt me and say, “You’re no good. You’re no good” before I even attempted to make a move. Then, when I finally found the courage to make a move he would yell out “That’s the worst move I’ve seen in 50 years!” He would say “You’re taking too long and over thinking your strategy. Picture Charlton Heston with grey bushy eyebrows and a voice that sounds more like Woody Allen than Moses on the Mountain, and you get a sense for what Richard was like.
While I never became a Grand Master, my lessons with Richard did help me to win a couple more games against the NYC West Village locals and taught me that strategy doesn’t need to be some 3000 page document or week-long offsite planning meeting that gets beautifully documented in a binder and never executed.
I think most strategy planning sessions and strategies in general fail for the same reason that Richard would tell me “You’re no good.” They are over-thought, rigid, complex and as a result ultimately difficult to execute.
In planning sessions with clients for digital strategies and within our own digital agency in Los Angeles, we use a very simple framework when we talk strategy that anyone can use to kickoff a discussion or lead a white board session. It’s called the G.O.T. framework and it’s super simple, yet very powerful to implement.
I think part of its power comes from its simplicity. Because it is so simple it’s less intimidating for participants. Anyone can draw a circle and line and contribute. I’m a lefty and have horrible artistic skills, but I can still use this framework to lead a session. The key is to make sure everyone has some level of situational awareness i.e. (Trends, Technology, Competitive, Economic, Consumer, etc. awareness that they bring to the session and not research doing it;-)(We’ve all been that guy at some point.)
Start with a Simple Goal
To use the G.O.T. framework you start by drawing a circle at the center of your whiteboard, paper, napkin, or wall (if you really want to upset your partner.) In that circle you want to write your goal. Don’t over think it, just write the desired outcome you want. I know a lot of people are fans of S.M.A.R.T. goals. I am too, but I don’t like to force S.M.A.R.T. goals in the beginning because they are too rigid.
Instead start with a simple goal like “Increase qualified leads from our website” and then go back later and make it S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). Sometimes we’ll also make it a question by starting with the phrase “In what way might we…” (Improve sales, get more leads, crush the competition, conquer the world…) you get the idea.
The next step is to add objectives. To do this you just draw lines out from your goal circle. And…you have just drawn the sun. Now just add circles to the end of those lines and add in objectives. I like to think of objectives as mini goals that when added up together will equal the big goal. So for our Goal of “Increase qualified leads from our website,” some objectives might be:
- Improve SEO
- Initiate SEM
- Enhance Content
- Streamline contact form
- Integrate with CRM
- Improve usability
- Do social media
- Buy Superbowl ad
Don’t get too caught up in what is an objective and what isn’t. Just add an idea at this point if you feel like it helps to accomplish the overall goal. You can always go back later and revise. And if you are running a group session, you must follow the golden rule that all ideas are good. We are exceptionally fragile beings and if there’s one thing everyone brings to a meeting it’s their ego whether it’s worthy of the Sears Tower or a tiny home on 4 wheels. You must include all ideas. The minute you censor will be the minute ideas stop flowing freely and the minute someone’s ego comes quietly crumbling down.
We often encourage participants to share crazy ideas. One time I was running a strategic brainstorm of about 15 people with an organization for a viral marketing campaign. And after I gave my spiel about all ideas are welcome and the crazier the better, I was met with dead silence. No one wanted to speak up. Then the CEO spoke and all I remember was him saying something like “What if we did a video of a guy going into a store with a machine gun…” As Richard would say it was probably the worst idea I had heard in 50 years! But I wrote it up on the board anyway amidst dead silence and one smiling CEO. But once it was up there someone spoke up and said “What about if we…” And from there on the ideas flowed freely and we came out of the session with some fantastic ideas.
If you’ve been following along, your simple strategic framework is actually right now a little too simple. You’ve got the G.O. framework but you’ve got to get to G.O.T. so you have to get tactical. If you haven’t guessed yet, the “T” is for tactics. To add tactics just draw lines out from your objective circles and add circles to the end of those lines. You’ll add your tactics in those circles. Your tactics will be the specific assignable actions to accomplish your objectives. For the objective above “Do social media” some tactics might be:
- Identify and setup social channels
- Plan editorial calendar
- Do viral video involving man enters store with machine gun…
Actually, don’t do the last one.
It Should Start to Look Something Like This…
Some additional things you might want to consider. To turn your G.O.T. strategy into something that actually yields results you might want to prioritize some components. Always look for the 80/20 rule and put your efforts into those tactics you think will yield the most results. You also might want to assign an owner and a due date to your tactics. I’ve found you should only assign one person to an initiative. More than one will lead to confusion and you’ll end up with both parties saying “I thought youwere going to do that.” With one person, there’s no confusion about who is responsible for getting it done.
That’s it. Simple, right? That’s what you want. Just identify your Goal, then think of the objectives that make up that goal and lastly think of the tactics to accomplish those objectives. And now the next time someone asks you to get strategic, you can say “I’ve G.O.T. that.”
Miscellaneous and Resources
For the curious out there, if you want to see my late great chess teacher in action, my friend Dino Reyes (@dreyesnyc)shot a very short film of Richard giving me a chess lesson at the Village Chess shop in NYC circa 2004. Here’s the link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pa0fIjYIm7c
If you’re interested in learning how to take your drawing or whiteboarding skills farther you might want to start with this great talk Dan Roam gave at Google:
His books are also great.
If you’re interested in developing a digital product strategy and translating it into a beautiful user experience and design then feel free to get in touch.