Top Ten Strategy Tricks: #10 Schwerpunkt

Top Ten strat­egy Tricks — Really our ten favorite strat­egy concepts.

Here at strate­gic sci­ence we have a bag of tricks — mostly dif­fer­ent strate­gic tech­niques used for intel­li­gence, plan­ning, exe­cu­tion and adap­ta­tion. Things like SWOT, PESTL, five forces, value chains, PERT, Gannt Logic, Mett — TC, C4ISR, The Kill Chain… etc.

Given our time avail­able, a full analy­sis of even one let alone 10 meth­ods would be so long nobody will read it.

So we’ll cover one item at a time, Abe Lin­coln style (like a woman’s dress, long enough to cover up, but short enough to keep inter­est). But we’ll give you the full list now so you know why you’re com­ing back for more. And one quick warn­ing, our favorite tricks here at strate­gic sci­ence tend to be unortho­dox with an anti estab­lish­ment interpretation.

10 — Schw­er­punkt
9 — Wedge’s Instant Strat­egy
8 — Action is faster than reac­tion
7 — Instinct over Facts
6 — Ghost Tac­tics
5 — Ratio­nal Self Inter­est — The 90% Rule
4 — OODA Loop
3 — Stand Alone Com­plex
2 — Bad News First
1 — The Fourth Turning

Bonus tricks beyond the Ten: Com­plex­ity The­ory, Decep­tion Sci­ence, and the Macho YoYo.

Schw­er­punkt

First in the top ten series

We are putting Schw­er­punkt at num­ber 10, because it’s so impor­tant it needs to be men­tioned first.… Prob­a­bly belongs as num­ber 1 or 2 if ranked by importance.

“An oper­a­tion with­out Schw­er­punkt is like a man with­out character.”

–Field Mar­shal Paul von Hindenburg

Schw­er­punkt is Ger­man, trans­lates lit­er­ally to “hard point” or “dif­fi­cult point.” The term orig­i­nates in Clause­witz’ “On War”, where Clause­witz uses it to mean strate­gic objec­tive, goal or destination.

Schw­er­punkt has been adapted by dif­fer­ent trans­la­tions as focus of effort or cen­ter of grav­ity; a some­what dif­fer­ent con­cept used in mod­ern mil­i­tary doc­trine; notably the vastly dif­fer­ent inter­pre­ta­tions of Amer­i­can COG and Ger­man Mil­i­tary Schw­er­punkt. Their stuff works, but it’s much more com­pli­cated than what we need for strategy.

In strate­gic sci­ence as always, we go to the roots of the term — a hard point, the schw­er­punkt is the unmov­ing tar­get of your strat­egy. The one thing every­one is work­ing toward.

In the busi­ness world, schw­er­punkt is typ­i­cally imple­mented in the form of visions and mis­sion state­ments. And here I have to give Herb Ruben­stien credit; he says a strat­egy
should always be some­thing you can state in one sen­tence. That sen­tence is your schwerpunkt.

So what?

So a schw­er­punkt is your strate­gic tar­get. It could be con­trol­ling Bagh­dad in 72 hours (US Mil­i­tary in 2002), Obtain­ing 15 Mil­lion sub­scribers (Dish Net­work), or sell­ing con­sis­tent qual­ity fast food across the globe (McDonald’s). Sim­ply com­mu­ni­cat­ing the schw­er­punkt to every­one par­tic­i­pat­ing in the strat­egy allows them to use their own judg­ment in how their respon­si­bil­i­ties align to the schw­er­punkt. And it is the tar­get used to deter­mine pri­or­i­ties and rel­e­vance of efforts. If your using resources in such a way that don’t point towards your schw­er­punkt, why are you using them?

Miyamoto Musashi, the leg­endary Japan­ese swords­man wrote pro­lif­i­cally on sword fight­ing; often not­ing if your goal is to stick the pointy end of the sword into the other man; any fancy tech­niques, motions, or the­o­ries that dis­tract from that sim­ple goal are useless.

Appli­ca­tion

This should be obvi­ous upon inspec­tion — a sim­ple sen­tence that estab­lishes the des­ti­na­tion or cen­tral goal for the orga­ni­za­tion pro­vides just enough guid­ance that the lead­ers and indi­vid­u­als of the orga­ni­za­tion can fill in the gaps of the strate­gic plan and exec­u­tive guid­ance that always appear in exe­cu­tion. Bet­ter, a well com­mu­ni­cated schw­er­punkt allows mul­ti­ple lead­ers to inde­pen­dently and simul­ta­ne­ously adapt strat­egy to chang­ing sit­u­a­tions imme­di­ately coor­di­nated by a com­mon schw­er­punkt — with­out senior lead­er­ship get­ting in the way.

Exam­ples

Most com­mon exam­ple are the con­test real­ity shows like Iron Chef or Project Run­way. The chal­lenge is to often to cre­ate a result around a cen­tral theme (i.e. schw­er­punkt). Judges fre­quently ask the losers why they ignored the schw­er­punkt and went off on some ran­dom tan­gent that had lit­tle to do with the scope of the challenge.

My per­sonal exam­ple of how a shared group schw­er­punkt allows enhanced uncom­mu­ni­cated group coor­di­na­tion was sim­ply meet­ing my friends for a movie. Fresh­man year of col­lege, every­one scat­tered across the state at dif­fer­ent col­leges and jobs, bunch of dis­or­ga­nized 19 year old’s all agree to meet at the same the­ater in the city for the 5:30 pm big action movie pre­mier they all wanted to see. Sort of a reunion. Well, this was the early 90’s before cell phones and email, so com­mu­ni­ca­tion was a challenge.

I got stuck in fri­day after­noon rush hour when I hit town, and got there about 5:29 PM, about a minute before the big movie started. I was not alone. About 3 of us showed up about that time. There was no way we would get a seat, odds are the new movie would be sold out right?

Well, it didn’t mat­ter. Because we had solid com­mit­ments, a firm ros­ter, and group trust; one guy patiently was wait­ing out­side the the­ater with 3 extra tick­ets in his hand, and the rest of the group had bought extra sodas and were sav­ing seats inside. All that coor­di­na­tion sim­ply thanks to say­ing yes to a friend on a 20 sec­ond phone call a few days ear­lier. The Schw­er­punkt was to get the gang back together to see a cer­atin movie at a cer­tain time; and every­one inde­pe­dently cor­rdi­nated efforts and picked up each other’s slack to make it hap­pen smoothly despite a lack of communication.

Beyond the question

Sim­ply put, hav­ing a schw­er­punkt is not enough. It has to be clearly com­mu­ni­cated, and used as the pri­or­ity and cen­tral value in deci­sion mak­ing. Just like every other wasted strate­gic plan, it only works if you actu­ally use it and act on it.

See you next week,

Thanks for read­ing, your hum­ble strategist,

Ted S Galpin

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8 Responses to Top Ten Strategy Tricks: #10 Schwerpunkt

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