In Strategy, don’t confuse Conception with Communication


By John Barrington

A colleague recently asked me about the 1-page strategic plan format. We advise clients to use 1-page plans to communicate their direction and strategies to staff and he had seen how one of our clients had successfully deployed this approach.

There are many such formats available and the one proposed by Verne Harnish is comprehensive and functional. We have further developed this and many clients have implemented the concept.

But, however powerful the approach may be in disseminating the information through the organisation, it is important to note that communication follows conception. Don’t confuse the two.

Very often we see clients struggling with the identification of the true strategic issues or development of strategies to be hindered by worrying about how they deliver often complex messages to staff; or worse still, stressing about what people might think if they knew the true Purpose or strategic issues of the organisation.

Our advice: Put those concerns aside. When you are in the strategy development phase, focus on the hard intellectual yards of identifying the real issues: those strategic challenges or opportunities that you must absolutely get right if your organisation is to prosper into the future.

With the Purpose discussion, we have seen commercial boards and executive teams resiling from the fact that the business has been established to create economic value. In the non-profit environment, directors or executive may want to express their organisation’s raison détre in flowery, non-specific words that suggest a better future for humanity. That is a noble aim, may well be achieved, and could be appropriate in communicating a future vision for humankind. But it does nothing to inform the strategy debate that requires honesty, focus and clarity.

Once the essence of the strategy has been divined through strong research, analysis and fierce debate then, and only then, can the attention turn to how best to impart the message.

The 1-page plan does this admirably and we propose a format that incorporates: Purpose; Vision; Values; BPI; KPIs; Value Proposition; Strategies by Horizon; Initiatives; and, Actions. The traffic light reporting system allows a quick update on how the organisation is performing against its defined set of scorecard indicators. We print this in landscape format on an A3 page and on the back of the sheet we have the tabular data by month and quarter. The data is updated monthly and the actions and initiatives can be updated quarterly to maintain relevance. In addition to capturing performance at organisational level, we also insert an area where individuals can track their own contribution to intended organisational outcomes.

For more information, please feel free to email me at

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