Molly’s Search for Strategy. A short story by Charles Kingsmill. In which Molly doesn’t get very far because nobody seems to know what they’re talking about.
Text of Molly's Search for Strategy. A short story about business strategy
1. Mollys Search for StrategyIn which Molly doesnt get very far because nobody seems to know what theyre talking about. A short story by Charles Kingsmill
2. Molly was bored, so she went to see Dad.He was surrounded by paper. He lookedunhappy. He was reading out loud. Therecommended template for the strategy islaid out in charts 1 to 63 with supportingmaterials in appendices A to G. What?What?Whats the matter, Dad? asked Molly.Im cross because I have to write astrategy for work, thats why. And theydont even seem to know what a strategyis.Ill find out, Dad said Molly.But Dad had gone back to his papers andhis muttering. Nuts he was saying. Aslide deck is not a strategy.
3. So Molly went to see Grandma.Whats a strategy, Grandma?Why do you want to know?asked Grandma.I want to help Dad said Molly.Well, I think you should askaround said Grandma.So Molly went to see Peacock.
4. Do you know what a strategy is,Peacock? asked Molly.My strategy is to grow revenues from30 million to 50 million said Peacock,spreading his admittedly beautifulfeathers. And to be recognised as theleading quality supplier in my industry.Hmm, thought Molly, no mention of howhes going to achieve it. This is justhubris. And narcissism.Nuts announced Molly. Just wantingto be big and admired is not a strategy.So she went to see Bull. And Bear.
5. Do you know what a strategy is, Bear orBull? asked Molly.Our strategy is to return to double-digitrevenue growth said Bull. while atthe same time cutting costs addedBear. thereby increasing profitabilityto above 15% finished Bull.Hmm, thought Molly, a P&L forecast. Butjust because the spreadsheet adds updoesnt mean that the forecast does. Andshe sniffed, because she thought shesmelled something.Nuts concluded Molly. A financialforecast is not a strategy.So she went to see Dog.
6. Do you know what a strategy is, Dog?asked Molly.Im doing the right things already; mystrategy is to do it better panted Dogkeenly.Hmm, thought Molly, at least Dog isenthusiastic. But anyone can beenthusiastic, and lets face it, Dog isntthe smartest toy in the box.Nuts snorted Molly. Trying harder isnot a strategy.So she went to see Chameleon.
7. Chameleon was rippling betweenvarious gorgeous colours.Do you know what a strategy is,Chameleon? asked Molly.My strategy is to be like the kings of thejungle: Apple, and Google, and Amazonlisped Chameleon.Hmm, thought Molly, you dont look like avery convincing king of the jungle to me.Youre really just a chameleon,pretending.Nuts decided Molly. Imitation is not astrategy.So she went to find Monkey.
8. She found Monkey jumping betweentrees.Do you know what a strategy is,Monkey? called Molly.At our recent strategy retreat, weidentified a dozen strategic priorities,underpinned by over one hundredachievable market-facing activitiescalled Monkey back.Blimey, thought Molly, no wonder youcan never sit still. Youll drive yourselfmad.Nuts called Molly. Doing lots of thingsis not a strategy.So she went to see Owl.
9. Do you know what a strategy is, Owl?asked Molly.My strategy is to optimise returns bydisintermediating legacy playerrelationships in a range of industryadjacencies hooted Owl.Pardon? said Molly.Im deleveraging structural competitivehorizontality hooted Owl, impatiently.Hmm, thought Molly, theres less to thisthan meets the eye.Nuts hooted Molly back. Jargon is nota strategy.So she went to see Ostrich.
10. Ostrich had his head in the sandpit.Do you know what a strategy is,Ostrich? asked Molly.My strategy is to outperform the marketaverage came a muffled voice.Hmm, thought Molly, then why are youhiding? How will that help?Nuts sniffed Molly. Disregarding yourcompetitors is not a strategy.So she went to see Parrot.
11. Do you know what a strategy is,Parrot? asked Molly.Our strategy is straight from the gut. Itsto win, dummy! cawed Parrot.Hmm, thought Molly. That is - by somedistance - the stupidest answer Iveheard today. Ive had it with this lot.Nuts said Molly. Exhortation is not astrategy.A strategy, a strategy, a strategycawed Parrot.STOP SAYING THAT WORD said Molly.You dont know what it means.And very sadly, she trailed back to seeGrandma.
12. Grandma, I didnt find out what astrategy is said Molly.Well, what did you find out?Molly sighed. It was really annoying. Ifound out that nobody else knowseither.Well, thats worth knowing in itself, isntit? smiled Grandma.Touch, Grandmamma. Very clever. Butpeople pretend they know what theyredoing and they dont. They just dont. Itsso silly. I just wanted to do something tohelp Dad, thats all. I tried and I tried andit was so difficult and no-one had theanswer but it was important so I kepttrying anyway.And she started to sniff. So Grandmanestled a little closer.
13. Listen Molly. I think youve learned agood lesson today. Sometimes youdecide youre going to be really helpfuland valuable to someone but you dontknow how. So you need a strategy. Thatmeans asking people for help and tryingout ideas and maybe nothing seems towork at first and its difficult but youjust keep trying because its important.And eventually you figure out just howyoure going to be helpful and valuable.Thats what having a strategy means.Hmm, thought Molly. Hmm. Hmm. Doyou know, Grandma? I think you mayhave something there.Why dont you go off and tell Dad allabout it?Okay Grandma said Molly, smilingagain, and off she skipped.
14. Editors note: Grandma is of course wrong. A strategy is the application of co-ordinated resources to a point of leverage to overcomeobstacles in the way of some valuable objective. Hoot!
15. Charles Kingsmill helps teams tohammer out great business strategies. Contact: www.charleskingsmill.com firstname.lastname@example.org