7th May 2011
The Freedom Team and Ketan Patel’s Master Strategist
Ketan Patel's Master Strategist is perhaps the best book on the subject of strategy. Browsing through it once again, today, I noticed a few sections that are particularly pertinent to FTI's strategy.
I'm extracting these sections below since strategy development is an ongoing exercise on FTI. In particular, it is hard for people to understand that FTI is not aimed at winning one or two seats in State assemblies or Parliament in India. Its effort is to create a new national classical liberal political force that shifts the discussion, shifts the entire nation towards freedom and good governance. And on a permanent, sustainable, basis. Such a permanent shift cannot occur (or be validated) without a parliamentary majority.
FTI knows that the people of India are not stupid. They will not vote for a small disparate group of leaders who think they know what is good for India, and arrogantly, without preparation, without persuasion, contest elections. Such fools will be shown the door. They will lose their deposit.
The results of innumerable outfits that have attempted such stupidity is there for everyone to see.
The people of India demand a credible alternative comprising high-quality leaders who have agreed on new policy directions for India. And that is only the beginning of the package. A number of other things – like supporters and funds for electoral campaigns – are imperative before the people of India agree to vote for such a new political force.
Most important, as far as I am concerned, is the natural momentum generated when 1500 outstanding leaders will assemble on one platform. to start the ball rolling. That momentum, in my view, will be greater than the sum of its parts, and will be unstoppable. In due course, there will be tens of thousands of more leaders who join. But critical mass and momentum are first necessary.
In my mind a leader is not a mere number, but a powerhouse on his own. That is what FTI is looking for. 1500 power houses.
In brief, FTI's strategy is no ordinary strategy. It does not accept anything but significant change. It believes that the people of India deserve better. It does not take shortcuts nor offer a shoddy, half-baked product.
Anyway, here are a few interesting extracts from Patel's book. I strongly recommend this book although you must keep your eye open while reading it for Patel does tend to wander off at places, and also presumes, at times, that things are true merely because someone said so. A young man with potential, he will ultimately become a great writer.
Strategy is fundamentally about difference. Strategy therefore denies equality, striving for sameness or belief in there being only one answer. Difference requires leaps beyond what others can grasp. Strategy requires us to go beyond:
• What the blind following of analysis can reveal.
• Where the sharing of common assumptions leads.
• Where the accepted wisdom points us.
• What the acceptance of unfit rules gives us.
Our existing approaches strategic analysis are based on the false notion that the sum the parts will equal the whole. This notion is false in assumes that the world is sufficiently well understood to assemble it from components.
The principle flaws (of most strategy) are:
1 Over-Focus on Analysis The main method is the use of 2-by-2 matrices. We analyse things that can be easily analysed: cost vs. profit, growth vs. share, number of engineers vs. overall graduates, number of people vs. water supply. Strategy of this type is a flawed accounting process as it usually involves analysis of the past to find the future. Good accountants of course know that analysis of the past can only tell you about the past. At best, it may provide you with some questions to ask about today's situation. This method avoids creativity and holistic thinking.
2 Over-Focus on Numbers The main emphasis is on size. We look at numbers that are easy to look at: the value of tangible assets, size of profits, the GDP per capita, the numbers of tanks, the stock-pile of arms. This method ignores people, their passions and their aspirations.
3 Over-Focus on Forecasting The main method is to extrapolate results by using modelling techniques. We project the past and assume the conclusions are valid. We assume we can project manufacturing output, revenue, demand, the weather, peace and other factors in a similar way. This method ignores other more complex variables and assumes a closed loop.
4 Over-Focus on the Near Term The overwhelming motivation is to deliver short-term results. We focus on things that are close enough for us to feel comfortable. For governments, this means concentrating on the election period, for corporations, on meeting the quarterly results requirement, while for inp.dividuals the imperatives are increasingly set by the regular glossy media. This method destroys human potential by focusing it on quick results.
5 Over-Focus on the Parts The main method is categorisation or segmentation. We categorise things that make it easier for us to grasp concepts: customers, people, enemies. We put them into income bands, social class, religious groups, ethnic types and education levels. This method the nose human behaviour by oversimplifying.
6 Over-Focus on What We Have The main method is to take an inventory. We do this simplistically using two techniques: firstly, strength and weakness analysis and, more recently, in the corporate world, core competency theory. This method avoids considering what we could have.
7 Over-Focus on Competing The main method is that of competitive strategy. We focus on those that we wish to beat: military competitive strategy, corporate competitive strategy, personal competitive strategy. This method harks back to a past of ignorance and/or limited means and makes us fight over assets and resources.
[Perhaps the highest strategy is the strategy of aspiration.]
A successful Strategy of Aspiration aims to redefine the existiK reality. Such a strategy recognises that to redefine the way things are, it is necessary to redefine the beliefs and aspirations of people. It is an approach which begins with aspiration rather than analysis, which is seen as a tool to refine the strategy.
e.g. I Have a Dream . . . The argument is that there is a better way.
Thanks for this post. I have ordered this book after reading your post. The point about ‘over-focus on competing’ is one of my interest areas.
You may also want to read about Blue Ocean Strategy (if you have not read it already). It also develops this point further – and quite well.
Are you aware of more such works (other than Ayn Rand’s) which develop the idea that “life is fundamentally not a zero-sum game”? I need those as I am writing (submitting) an article for The Objective Standard on this theme.
Thanks, Saurabh. Haven’t come across Blue Ocean Strategy yet. Will explore.
There is simply no question of life being a “zero-sum” game. It is not a game. It is an experience. A unique experience that does not permit comparison with anyone else. Consider Advaita. It talks about the universal ‘soul’ in everyone. Each of us is God in that sense. (I don’t have a view on God/Advaita, but believe that this is a wonderfully intriguing thought). Read Vivekananda.
There is nothing to be gained from competition which is all about petty achievement. Everything to be gained from self-actualisation. The struggle, the jihad, against the weaknesses of one’s own self – to ultimately seek what we are: somewhere within us.