I recently had the opportunity (and privilege) to attend a masterclass with [Richard Rumelt](http://www.strategyland.com/), one of the world’s most influential thinkers on strategy and management, and author of ‘[Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters](http://www.amazon.com/Good-Strategy-Bad-Difference-Matters/dp/0307886239/)’.
As the title of his book hints, he sees lots of examples of what he calls ‘bad strategy’. He sees the hallmarks of a bad strategy being ‘fluff’, failure to face the challenge, mistaking goals for strategy and bad strategic objectives. He defines fluff as “a form of gibberish masquerading as strategic concepts or arguments,” and argues that fluffy slogans become substituted for strategy. In the masterclass, as he does in the book, he provided plenty of stories and examples to illustrate his point.
Attending the masterclass reaffirmed just how important the work we are doing with our clients is. We commonly see the problems he describes, where strategies are full of ambiguous and abstract language. Employees are encouraged to be ‘customer-centric’ and ‘results-driven’, and to have ‘a high degree of professionalism’. They are expected to live a company’s values of ‘integrity’, ‘passion’ and ‘honesty’. They have to continually improve the way they work to make themselves more ‘efficient’ and effective’, working ‘smarter not harder’ so as to ‘get the right things done’.
Whilst they may be well-intentioned, these abstractions often get in the way of real understanding and action. One of the ways we help organisations get past this, and bring their strategies to life, is to use real-life examples from within their own business. We help them find and share stories and specific examples of these abstract concepts in action, which helps them to understand and apply them. In other words, the stories help them to make the abstractions ‘concrete’.
Rumelt believes that the mark of “true expertise and insight is making a complex subject understandable.” That’s what we’re aiming to achieve using stories.
About Daryl Cook