If you can’t describe it, you don’t understand it

Jeremy Perks, March 8, 2016

I was with a group of senior managers the other day and the conversation turned to Strategy.  I asked them what their strategy was.  The first attempt from my left was a ramble, the next attempt from my right was a list of numbers, and this was followed by some acknowledgment that there was some work to do in order to get clarity.

One of the main barriers preventing the effective execution of strategy is that most employees simply do not understand it.  And it’s hard to execute a strategy you don’t understand.

A good way of checking whether you understand something is to try to explain it / describe it.  So…if someone was to ask you to describe your company’s strategy, in a way that others could understand, could you do it?

If yes, great.  By the way don’t just assume you can, try it!  Talk to yourself or the mirror (when no-one’s looking) for 1 minute and see how you go.

If you can’t describe it:

1. It means that you will not be able to explain it to your subordinates, and
2. It follows that the chances of you and your team effectively executing it are slim.

Here are a few questions for you to consider which will hopefully prompt some constructive action.

1. Can you clearly describe your strategy?
2. If someone was to ask your peers to describe the strategy, would they say the same thing as you?
3. Do your subordinates understand the strategy / the parts of the strategy they need to understand in order to do their job?
4. What do you need to be doing to increase understanding of the strategy for yourself / your peers / your subordinates?

What can you do to build the understanding?