Tactics, Strategies, and Quality Words
As David Hay reported in his last column, the Business Rules Group hasnít quite finalized the Motivation model.
The structure hasnít changed
much over the past year. We changed the names of a couple of concepts ≠
Approach Component became, respectively,
of Guidance and
Course of Action ≠ and added a couple of
Where we havenít reached final agreement is on fine tuning of the definitions behind the picture. Discussion is continuing via our email forum, and we plan to resolve the outstanding issues during our September meeting.
Much of the underlying concern in the discussion is about how to recognize real-world instances of the concepts modeled. Itís essential to be able to do this if you want to make practical use of the model.
In practice, you will be faced with hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of statements about an enterprise. And they wonít be neatly organized to reflect the concepts in our model. You will need to be able to pick out the ends and the means, the policies and the rules, and the influences. Until you have these things clearly stated, you canít reliably assess the impact of influences on policies, the success of tactics in meeting objectives, and so on.
Tactics and Strategies
One topic discussed was the difference between strategies and tactics. Proposals ranged from the teleological ("tactics support objectives, strategies support goals") to the pragmatic ("a tactic is something you can change under your own authority; to change a strategy you have to ask your boss").
It seems clear that there is a
Courses of Action ≠ from major strategies to minor
tactics≠ and there isnít an absolute criterion for separating the "minor
strategy" from the "major tactic." It will vary from organization
to organization, and probably from person to person. This is not something we
can change by saying by saying "it must be so" in our model (however
much we might wish we could).
Of course, you might want to develop a methodology that incorporates our model, in which itís important to make the distinction; for example, strategies and tactics might be stored in different places in your rules repository.
You could make more-or-less arbitrary rules to separate them. This is fine, provided you remember that your rules are not the reality. They are your way of organizing statements about the reality. The people you work with also need to understand this. And you shouldnít get too upset if the rest of the world doesnít see it your way, every time.
Another major topic of discussion was on not using "quality" words (like "fast", "low-cost", "best") in describing courses of action. The case was made that courses of action should be neutral statements, and that quality words should be used in defining the goals and objectives that the courses of action support
Iím one of the minority that
thinks this is too extreme. An example from one of Ron Rossís emails
illustrates why. Ronís example is the statement "We will brew beer 25%
cheaper by end of the year." How does this break down into the concepts in
our model? The current position of the group is that the
(or maybe a
Tactic - see discussion above) is the neutral
"brew beer." The
Goal is "low cost beer" and
the Objective is "25% cheaper (than current cost) by end of the year."
This doesnít feel right.
Imagine a company reacting to
competition. There are a number of things it might do ≠ brew beer at lower
cost, brew beer at the same cost and absorb a price reduction out of profits,
buy cheap beer from a third party, get out of the beer market, and so on. Its
is to brew beer cheaper.
Strategy is always
about choice, about selecting one course of action from a number of options. The
essence of the strategy here is to brew beer at lower cost, not
just to brew beer (which the company does already).
The implication of adopting
this view would be that "quality" words would be appropriate in
Courses of Action, and would be mandatory if they defined
the essence of the strategic (or tactical) choice ≠ e.g. "cheaper"
rather than "less profitable." "Quantity" words, like
"25% cheaper by end of the year" would be continue to be restricted to
I hope that by the time you see this column weíll have reached consensus. Visit our web site (www.BusinessRulesGroup.org) for the latest news.