The key to navigating complexity with ease lies in creating an effective business strategy. Start by mapping out initiatives, considering their impact, and organizing them logically.


What do convergence, spaghetti and business plans have in common?

We can feel our world becoming more complex, much of this due to convergence.  I see 4 key trends here:

  • Complexity in lives and purchase habits. Our work and personal lives are interwoven spaghetti.   First there were Blackberries.  Now we use our smart phones for hybrid working, WFH, WFA, 24/7.  Social media.  If you think you can keep your work and home separate, forget it. Your boss and client noticed on Facebook where you stayed on your vacation.   If you didn’t post it, your friends or kids did. This convergence of work and life impacts the complexity of purchase habits for B2C markets, and has knock-on effects in B2B markets.

  • Digital and industry convergence. Your industry is likely converging with other industries.  Lines between them are blurred.  Technology and digital business models are now deeply embedded within most businesses.  And AI will change things forever.

  • Stakeholder complexity. Your competitors, suppliers and business partners – they’ve evolved over the last decade.  Increased in number. Many have merged, globalized and reinvented. Some of your prized team members could be fractional executives, long term sub-contractors and gig workers. You can look at this as convergence of external stakeholders with internal.

  • Volume of projects on top of BAU. Previously you had a manageable number of live projects on top of your business as usual work.  Now I see medium to larger businesses with hundreds of projects underway; smaller businesses are totally overloaded.  Most with complex inter-dependencies. Inter-related decisions.

All of this spaghetti creates confusion and overwhelm, and I often see managers stuck in their planning because of this. Today I’d like to share with you an approach that I use to help managers get “unstuck”. I use the 3 easy steps below to create a picture of what is going on around the plan that we’re developing. It is useful for all types of plans you’re working on: strategic plans, team plans, product launches, culture change, digital projects and innovation programs. Like all my frameworks, this is best co-designed, co-created with your team, stakeholders or clients.

3 steps to create a strategy framework for complex plans

  1. Draw a diagram of how your initiatives fit together. Take a step back when you’re planning your strategy or project, and think about your broader context.  What other projects are related?  Draw each project or initiative on the page in a box. On paper, a whiteboard, a screen – it doesn’t matter. If you create a diagram of all the parts, you’ll see things differently.  See the simple example below. If you’re in my membership, you’ll find many editable frameworks and examples in your playbook: “Program Design with Impact”.
  2. Think about what else is being disturbed by your plan?Add these initiatives to your diagram all in a separate box. Overlay trends, movement, what is converging. Have the relevant moving parts been captured?
  3. Sort the initiatives on the page into a logical order – what belongs on the Y and X axis? Shift things around, put them in an order that makes sense to you (eg impact to customer), and then label the axes. Group some items as needed. Then you have created your own framework to suit your situation, your organization, your culture. I guarantee you will get new insights.

One last word.  I’ve also seen too much analysis paralysis in my time.  Finish your planning phase, and go and execute it. Fast. The market isn’t standing still.


Quote of the week

“Take time to get to know the people; show a genuine interest in the people you work with. It will make your work life a happier place.” From my wise little sister, Julie Carlin, Solution Delivery Manager for iOCO Tech in Cape Town.


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About Lisa Carlin

As a strategy execution specialist and scaleup mentor, Lisa works with ambitious digital leaders to turbocharge their transformation and business planning. Lisa’s clients have an independent sounding board and expert advice so they have absolute confidence they WILL ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS. Lisa is Co-Founder and Director of FutureBuilders Group of organisational development specialists, and volunteers as Chair of the University of Cape Town Australia Trust. Her early career was with Accenture (South Africa) and McKinsey (USA).

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