Strategy – The Sine Qua Non of Success*
In all the history of competition - military and business - the ability to create and execute good strategy has been the hallmark of winners. As important as strategic thinking and action have always been, in today’s hyper-velocity world they are more important than ever. The Prometheus Process is a comprehensive methodology for creating and executing good strategy throughout a law firm; it applies to any kind of competitive environment - from business to war. If you want success in today’s world, you need strategic thinking and execution throughout your firm - not just at the senior partner level. Wolf Management Consultants can help you develop a great strategy that should significantly increase your return on the people, ideas, and capital that are already part of your firm.
Welcome to the world of Prometheus!*
It may surprise you to learn that you witnessed the birth of a powerful business process Prometheus - on global television. It was the evening of January 16, 1991 when the launch of the first hyper-war was broadcast live on CNN. Developed at warp-speed and designed for overwhelming victory, the Desert Storm air campaign lit up the skies of Baghdad and changed strategic thinking forever. Now, this breakthrough concept has been applied to another kind of intense competition: the fast changing world of 21st century business.
The Prometheus Process*
The Prometheus Process is a mindset and a methodology for rapid, decisive strategic action. Its essence is simple: think strategically, focus sharply, and move quickly.
The Prometheus Process is all about strategy. There is no other time in the last two decades of American business history where strategy was as essential as it is now. To use Andy Grove’s phrase, we are clearly at a strategic inflection point in technology, time, and geopolitics; there are now opportunities that previously did not exist and, conversely, processes that worked for years are no longer attractive. It is through mastery of strategic thinking and execution that individuals and firms alike are able to determine their destinies and rise above the uncertainties around them.
The Prometheus Process allows you to create and execute a uniquely encompassing strategy - one that carries you from concept to end game. It helps you choose the right things—your internal and external centers of gravity—against which to put your energy. It shows you graphically why the normal serial approach to business has such a low probability of success; it provides you with concepts and tools to move to parallel operations, with their high probabilities of success and accompanying low risk. Finally, it shows you how to recognize and deal with the points of diminishing return in your products and business concepts.
Why is the Prometheus Process needed?
If you want to be more profitable, to see more results from your hard work, and to get greater satisfaction from your enterprise, you need to create and execute good strategy, for it is strategy more than anything else which gives you sustainable success. The Prometheus Process is a proven approach to developing and executing strategy throughout an organization. It helps firms and individuals stay ahead of change and profit from it. It is a necessity for any firm or any person wanting to maximize opportunities, minimize risk, and see good returns on investments of people, time and money. In some situations, it may even be your key to survival.
You won’t win by following the rules of yesterday. Use Prometheus to create your own rules with a winning strategy—an integrated plan that will take you from concept to execution to completion.
The Promethic Laws
The Prometheus Process is built on a group of natural laws of strategy as follows:
The Four Imperatives of Prometheus
Strategy is all about guiding the outcome of individual effort and events to produce success. In strategic terms, success is producing a sustainable outcome that is valuable and satisfying over time. Strategy, then, is not winning battles; rather it is winning wars and more particularly the peace that follows them. Focusing only on battles at the expense of wars and the subsequent peace is dangerous in the extreme and almost never leads to long-term success.
Many people think that strategic thought and execution are very difficult. To the contrary, almost everyone can learn to do both. The operative word, however, is “learn.” We all grow up in a tactical world, where looking both ways before we cross the street is a necessity for survival. Likewise, in our education, we spend the overwhelming majority of our time learning details, while we spend little time trying to integrate what we have learned.
So, unfortunately, strategy is foreign to most of us - we have had little exposure to it, and we are normally rewarded for tactical, not strategic, prowess. If, however, we really want our efforts to produce sustained success, then we must learn strategy at both an organization and a personal level. Fortunately, despite the mysteries surrounding strategy, learning to think and act strategically is not too difficult, but it does require you to view the world in a different way.
The Elements of Strategy
At its most basic level, strategy has four simple components:
I. Knowing where you want to end up
II. Knowing what to put your energy against
III. Knowing the methodology of applying your energy
IV. Knowing parameters for the inevitable end games
Any strategic system that does not deal with all four of these elements is deficient and not likely to lead to sustained success.
In the Prometheus Process, each of these necessary elements is addressed by an “Imperative”, or key step in the process.
Imperative I: Design the Future
The first (and importantly first) step in strategic thinking is to identify the future that you want to create. In the Prometheus Process, the desired future is called the Future Picture. It is a very hard, very objective, very measurable picture of the future you want to create. In the Prometheus Process, you break the Future Picture into 12 separate, very descriptive elements that ensure a balanced future embraced by all.
Accompanying the Future Picture are Strategic Measures of Merit—those measures that tell you when you have achieved your Future Picture, or when you are on the right course for it. They are normally not the same measures you use at a tactical level. In fact, tactical measures can be quite dangerous when applied at a strategic level.
The third key part of designing the future is deciding on the Guiding Precepts which will apply to the organization. Guiding Precepts describe the essence of the organization (e.g., Nordstrom’s extreme customer focus), and the boundaries you intend to accept regardless of the circumstances (e.g., the opposite of the Enron Executive Committee waiving its conflict of interest rules for off-book deals).
The Prometheus Process assumes that the people in an organization generally know more about their business than anyone else in the world. It also assumes that people in an organization will make and execute smart plans if they have a disciplined process which takes place in an Open Planning environment. The more people who are involved in the planning process, the faster it goes, and the more likely that the plan will be well executed. In general, it is good to have at least three echelons (Management Layers) involved in the Open Planning process. Having three echelons ensures that there will be good knowledge and experience in the room. It also means that as the planning merges into execution, there will be very few errors made as a result of confusion over direction, or disagreement with the plan.
Imperative II: Target for Success
There are a very large number of things against which an organization can put its limited resources. You know intuitively that some of those things will have much higher impact than others. The organization which targets the right things, the Centers of Gravity, will be far more effective, at a much lower cost, than the organization that has no disciplined way to choose and affect its targets.
The Prometheus Process recognizes that everything takes place in the context of a system and that systems have such annoying characteristics as inertia and resistance to change. But they also have Centers of Gravity—the handful of things in a system that produce disproportionate impact when affected. The Five Rings model—exclusive to the Prometheus Process—provides a real-world way to understand organizations and markets as a system, and to find their Centers of Gravity. The best way to change a system (your organization, your market) is by affecting its Centers of Gravity.
If you want to put your organization or market on a new track, it is necessary to create rapid and hard-to-reverse system change. To create hard-to-reverse system change, you must affect system Centers of Gravity in a compressed period of time. Doing so greatly reduces the ability of the system to resist what you want it to do, and the changes tend to stick. This leads to the third of the Prometheus Imperatives—Campaign to Win.
Imperative III: Campaign to Win
With the Future Picture standing before everyone as a clear beacon to guide actions, you begin to attack the Centers of Gravity previously identified. You do this with Campaign Teams drawn from across the organization, and consisting to the maximum extent possible of those who participated in the creation of the Future Picture, and the identification of the Centers of Gravity.
It is the objective of the Campaign Teams, continuing to work in an Open Planning environment, to affect the Centers of Gravity in Parallel, which means to affect them all in a very compressed time frame. Compressed, Parallel Operations have far higher probabilities of success than do stretched-out serial operations, and paradoxically cost much less.
Imperative IV: Finish with Finesse
In the real world, every business cycle and product has a beginning and an end. Even though we know this to be the case, very few organizations plan for the back side of the inevitable cycle. The failure to plan in advance means that too much energy is devoted to the wrong things. In the Prometheus Process, you plan so as to exit cycles and products with maximum gains.
The Prometheus Process incorporates a number of “Cardinal Rules” that generally apply across the board in any kind of competitive environment. They flow from historical and modern experiences in business and geopolitics. Applied to every phase of planning and execution, they simplify and expedite decisions at all levels. They also apply in everyday personal life. When you follow them, you improve your probability of succeeding. The following are illustrative of the dozen plus Prometheus Cardinal Rules:
The Prometheus Process Differentiators
Unlike most strategic planning methodologies, the Prometheus Process provides a means for start to finish strategic planning and execution to be used at every level of an organization. It emphasizes: Objective Descriptions of the organization’s Desired Future with accompanying Strategic Measures of Merit; understanding organizational values through the creation of Guiding Precepts; a real world Systems Approach to find Centers of Gravity within an organization and in its markets; Flexible Organization; Open Planning at every level; Rapid System Change, and preparation of End Game Plans for every facet of the business. Specifically:
* “Strategy- The Sine Qua Non of Success”: Strategy Presentation by John Warden to The Company Grade Officer's Group, Gunter AB, AL May 2003
* “Winning in FastTime” – John A. Warden III and Leland A. Russell, 2002 - Venturist Publishing; ISBN 0-9711591-4-9
* The Prometheus Process was created and developed by John Warden of the Venturist Corporation and is licensed to WMC through Wolf Management Consultant; James R. McCarthy.
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