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Staying Synced on Strategy
The 4 Dimensions of Coherence
I’ve recently been getting some great topic ideas from reader comments - a question from earlier this week that got me thinking:
“Are there systematic practices to prevent disoriented teams in the first place?”
Strategy (overused word, I know) is the glue that keeps teams oriented - so any systemic practices designed to prevent organizational drift have to lean on strategy as the foundation. But what makes one strategy better or worse than another in terms of keeping oriented? The answer is coherence. What I mean by coherence is that the strategy clicks for an organization, like all the puzzle pieces coming together; conversely, an incoherent strategy has one or more aspects due to which it doesn’t quite fit.
There are 4 dimensions of coherence:
When a strategy is legible, it’s easy for folks to digest. It’s clearly written, well synthesized, chunked into digestible pieces, and ideally summarized into a compelling visual or tagline. We’ve all seen and read and heard strategies that overly rely on buzz words and rambling explanations - legibility means short and sweet. And when a strategy is legible, it enables and empowers teams to make decisions and trade-offs at a local level vs escalating things up the chain.
A strategy is synchronous when the organizational design aligns with it; in other words, a strategy has to navigate the hierarchy of a company. Of course communication is critical and repetition is necessary, but if the hierarchy implicitly re-broadcasts the strategy, you get maximum distribution and alignment. There are many mechanisms to share and drive accountability (OKRs, DRIs, etc), but at the end of the day if a strategy is creating friction by going against cultural norms, communication channels, and standard practices, it’ll be hard to execute. What this also means is that sometimes a re-org is required to run with a strategy; given how expensive org changes are, you’ll need a legible strategy for folks to buy in.
Executing a strategy can be a delicate dance - composability means the sequencing is correct. There’s a logical ordering to a well laid plan, and not every workstream needs to be kicked off in parallel in a mad dash to the finish line. The science behind a well composed strategy consists of proper scoping, accurate sizing, reasonable staffing, and dependency management. The less composable a strategy is, the more dragged down it is by coordination overhead.
Affordability is an idea you might not have thought of that comes into play often. Just because a strategy is legible, the org is aligned, and the plan is logical doesn’t mean the org has the stomach to actually do it. Strategic execution requires (sometimes very hard) trade-offs and you have to say no (or no more) to many things in the interest of saying yes to the main thing. The willingness to make someone (employees, partners, customers) unhappy in the short term for a payoff in the long term is affordability - not every company is willing to pay the price.
In summary, if all these factors come together properly, you have a coherent strategy.
legibility → written clearly
synchronicity → broadcasted regularly
composability → planned logically
affordability → executed effortlessly
And when one (or all) of these areas don’t click, incoherence, and ultimately disoriented teams, are the end result.
I’d love to hear from readers about their attempts at staying synced on strategy - please chime in via comments👇. And if you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing.
further reading / references
the original post on Disoriented Teams that led to this this article
in Implementing Product Strategy you can read more about legibility and synchroncity, and why they’re critical concepts for rolling out a strategy
for some audio thoughts on how to roll out a strategy based on where your organization is at in it’s ability to execute, listen to Strategy Sophistication
in order to determine whether a strategy checks the affordability box in terms of trade-offs required, it’s useful to gauge where your product is in terms of its lifecycle
if you area dealing with an incoherent strategy, might be time to do a GIGO check
childish drawing / interpretation
professional animation / improvement
(thank you Amplitude comms team!)