People at the top of organisations have a critical role in ensuring everyone in the business understands its strategic priorities. Whether or not Tim Cook makes a success of his role as Steve Jobs successor at Apple, he is certainly making sure that the key message is widely understood.
The latest example was his in-house response to the recent quarterly results. He took the opportunity to emphasise Apple’s reliance on continuing to make “the best products in the world that enrich people’s lives”. He did this by using phrases like: “laser focussed”, “new products”, “making a great product” and “incredible stuff” in almost every paragraph of his speech. And this was not the only occasion that he he used to foster the message.
Leadership is as much about simplifying strategy into something the whole organisation can understand and get behind as it is about creating it in the first place. It requires the ‘big picture’ thinking to develop a sustainable business model plus the ability to pick the bones out of the plan to create a ‘laser focus’, but on something with meaning.
I have worked in and with several organisations where the strategy has been often repeated and was apparently simple, but basically incomprehensible. One organisational leader declared that the strategy was to “become international” without anyone (including the leader it seemed) understanding what being international meant. Another proposed that their strategy was to “be one of the top three” in the industry without really explaining why. In this latter case, it left employees chasing marginal business and putting the organisation at risk.
Repetition is the key to spreading a message and simplicity is crucial to making it understood. As Albert Einstein said “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”, and Tim Cook at Apple seems to have got that message. It remains to be seen whether the strategy is sustainable.
The questions this pose are about how you as a leader encapsulate your strategy and how often you repeat it:
- What is your organisation’s laser focus?
- How often do you think you need to repeat the message?
My guess is that whatever number you came up with, it won’t be enough.