Strategy and the six honest serving-men

I keep six honest serving-men / (They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When/And How and Where and Who.

I send them over land and sea,/  I send them east and west;

But after they have worked for me,/ I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five,/ For I am busy then,

As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,/For they are hungry men.

But different folk have different views;/ I know a person small

She keeps ten million serving-men,/Who get no rest at all!

She sends em abroad on her own affairs,/From the second she opens her eyes

One million Hows, Two million Wheres,/ And seven million Whys!

Rudyard Kipling

5 W+1H

This elementary rule may represent the anchor of salvation for many issues.

Take strategy for instance; basically crafting a strategy represents a way to:

  •     analysing a problem
  •     finding a way to fix it
  •     designing a plan to accomplish the task
  •     keeping such a plan under control (and improve it)

How are you going to make it?  of course, there are many methods that may help you assessing the landscape, checking the feasibility of a certain idea but, back to basics, in the end the only thing you really need is a bit of common sense.And is exactly at this point that Kipling’s serving men come to help you with their soft power. Apply the 5 w + 1 h rule.

WHY: why is everything. Is probably one of the few words in the universe that becomes more interesting and deeper everytime we repeat it.  There are methods in strategy that lead to a deep analysis of an issue simply through a continuous iteration of the word “why?” taking always a bit further and deeper problem’s exploration. But the very first why is also scary because is the very beginning (“Start with why” is Simon Sinek’s famous mantra)

WHO: who is related with identification of roles, finding identities, defining responsabilities. Who is in charge? who is going to fix it? Who is carrying on a specific task and last but not least, who’s generating a specific problem?  Who in the end is the very precious human factor that can make the difference in your business life…only if Mr Who answers your call!! (who may be also your customer…in the end is not that strange: the “human factor” inside (employees) and outside (customers) the firm seem progressively to become two faces of the same big thing…think about the most innovative/internet based companies)

WHAT: what is about defining both your problem and your goal. And that’s definitely an art. What is defining borders; what falls into the borders is something to be proud of (uniqueness, competitive assets) or to be worried about (issues to fix, vulnerabilities); what falls outside is competitive landscape. (So is the area of research which should identify direct or indirect competitors and at the same time, give us the comprehension of their mission, vision, core values, niche market, strengths and weaknesses);




WHEN: when is an interesting but tricky question. When it comes to time-scale…when is strategy, defining a horizon for developing your mission, but also tactics, giving a deadline for every single phase of your plan. But when is also about deepening the knowledge of frequencies and cycles in your business

WHERE: where is somehow ambiguous. It can be the right question for deciding the most favourable location in order to establish a new business; but it may also represent the occasion to assess what exactly (process, value, asset, etc) lies inside and outside your organization (and if it should stay like that). It can be also a chance to ask yourself the position you actually occupy in the market (and what kind of positioning task are necessary to change the status quo)

HOW: how is important because is about elaborating a method: a method for measuring your strategic plan results, a method for accomplishing your goals. How is about consolidation and formalization of a brilliant idea or a successful action into a method and in a process.



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