Arron’s STORM Pattern

STORM – Strategy Tactics Objectives Results Measures

There are loads of great books on strategy here in the ClassiQ office but, while all of them are inspirational and thought provoking, none of them cover the most important phase of strategy: implementation. You can be inspired by the books to come up with the most audacious strategy man has ever known but nothing will happen unless you know how to implement it. We see it all the time in large organisations. Some consultant spends a few days with the board and the next thing you know there is a new corporate strategy. There are posters and press releases and lots of the right noises being made by senior management. But it gets to a year later and nothing has really changed except that the board is wondering whether it is time to see another consultant.

As far as I know, what you are about to read is a world first. It is a practical pattern for implementing any strategy. It will not make your strategy any good. It will not guarantee that your strategy is affordable. But it will allow you to model the business architecture of any strategy. It will allow you to realise the impact on your enterprise and therefore the cost of the strategy before it is implemented. And if you choose to go ahead with the strategy, everyone will know exactly how well it is doing.

A STORM Brewing

Progress leads to an objective

Progress leads to an objective

It may sound obvious but the first thing to recognise about any strategy is that it must have an Objective and that there must be some Progress to achieve it. Using symbols, it can be shown like the above.

Progress leads to an objective which gives an outcome

Progress leads to an objective which gives an outcome

Even with the best will in the world, no matter how good the Progress towards the Objective, the Outcome might not be the same. For instance:
•    the Objective could be a specific sales target but the Sales Team might miss it
•    the Objective could be to get as many new customers as possible before a promotion ends
•    the Objective could be that a new product needs to be more attractive than the competition
In any of those three cases, the Outcome could vary. So despite having set an Objective, it is useful to recognise that the Outcome may be quantitively or qualitatively different.

Measure the STORM
“Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.” – Galileo Galilei

The next thing to understand is that the point an Objective is achieved is an Event. That’s important because it turns all three objects into something we can measure.

Measure-Objective-Measure

The example objectives are fairly simple for now; complex objectives that are difficult to measure come later in the pattern. To push the examples used above a bit further:

Example Event (Objective Achieved When) Explanation
A specific sales target Sales Target Hit Although the Sales Team wants to beat the target, the Objective is achieved the moment the sales target is hit
Get as many new customers as possible before a promotion ends Promotion Ends The number of customers is an Outcome
New product design must be more visually attractive than the competition Design is the most attractive This might be measured using A-B comparisons and focus groups

Progress is the difference between the Starting Point and the Objective. To measure the Progress, it is necessary to understand something fundamental: the Objective must be also measurable. By turning the Objective into an event, it becomes possible to understand that the Objective is achieved when an event happens and events can be measured. The basic theory is to ask: how you will know when you have achieved the Objective? Which should lead to: we will know the Objective is achieved when X.  Normally, X is something that can be measured. There are plenty of patterns for turning Objectives into something measurable, e.g. many are based on SMART.

  1. The sales target is something we can measure
  2. As the Objective is the sales target, we know that Measure Progress is actually a measure of sales, i.e. a sales report
  3. As the Objective is an event, we know that it is achieved when the sales report goes above that figure
  4. The Outcome is the figure on the report that is above the sales target

So the whole thing boils down to:

  • A Measure is a report
  • There is a Target on the Measure (report)
  • The Objective is achieved by reaching the Target on the Measure (report)

It is worth noting that the Target does not have to be a single figure or even a number. As long as the Measure (report) shows Progress and when the Objective is achieved, it can be anything that makes sense to those who have to read the report.

Take the Objective by STORM
If all we do is produce a sales report, those sales targets are unlikely to be hit. As well as measuring things, someone needs to take some action.

Measures and tactics

Measure the progress and use tactics to achieve the objective then measure the outcome

In strategy, taking some action is called Tactics. For all the excitement that the name conjures, Tactics are really just business processes and procedures. They are normally designed for the purpose but might be existing processes and procedures. The only difference is that Tactics is the name used for processes and procedures when they are specifically used to achieve one or more Objectives. This means that there must be a provable causal link between the Tactics and the Objective, i.e. there must be something in the Tactics which is designed to change the Progress or the Tactics have been observed to change it in the past. For instance, in the example of the sales team wanting to hit its target, the Tactics might be a procedure to call customers and offer discounts.

Which leads to the simple loop:

  1. Measure Progress
  2. Use Tactics
  3. Repeat 1 and 2 until the Target is reached/Objective is achieved
  4. Measure the Outcome

Assuming the Tactics are any good, this gives a strongly-defined way of ensuring that the Objective is met. If the Tactics are not working, others can be tried but the pattern remains the same. More on that later.

Riding the STORM
One of the immediate problems with what has been presented so far is that it only gets to the Objective. Tactics are often only good for temporary use so there needs to be a way of making achievement of the Objective secure.

Consolidate the objective once it has been achieved

The tactics used to achieve the objective might not be suitable for long-term use so it might be necessary to consolidate

Just as Tactics are processes and procedures that are used to get to the Objective, there may be different ones needed to keep it. When the Objective is achieved, it is time to Consolidate. There are several possibilities, such as:

  • Stop using the Tactics because they are not needed any more
  • Stop using the Tactics and revert to business as usual (BAU) processes and procedures to maintain the Objective
  • Embed the Tactics into the operating model (OM)
  • Use different processes and procedures to take advantage of the Objective being met
  • Create a new target operating model (TOM) to take account of the Outcome

There are many more possible actions when it is time to Consolidate and the ones to choose can depend on the Outcome. Because the switch-over might take time, it joins the pattern as another loop:

  1. Measure Progress
  2. Use Tactics
  3. Repeat 1 and 2 until the Target is reached/Objective is met
  4. Consolidate
  5. Measure the Outcome
  6. Repeat 4 and 5 until the consolidation is complete and there is a final Outcome

That final Outcome in the list above is called the Result.

KPIs and Completion Reports

Use KPIs to measure the success of tactics and completion reports to measure the success of the consolidation

In most business architecture modelling tools there are specific icons for KPIs (key performance indicators) and reports. Measure Progress is a KPI and the Outcome/Result is a completion report which means that what has been covered so far should end up looking something like the above.

Multiple STORM Fronts
Here is where the pattern cheerfully stands on the shoulders of giants. In 1979 at The University of Queensland in Australia, the first example of a Risk Bow Tie diagram appeared in the ICI Hazan (Hazard Analysis) course notes. Where a Risk Management uses a Bow Tie diagram to avoid a negative event, Arron’s STORM Pattern uses a Bow Tie diagram to achieve a positive event.

Complete STORM Bow Tie diagram

Complete STORM Bow Tie diagram showing in EA artefacts how to implement a strategy to achieve an objective

By having multiple Progress Paths that use different Tactics, it is possible to have an Objective that is complex. The diagram above shows two Progress Paths but the there can be any number. Now the Objective can be met in many different ways.

  • One of the Progress KPIs must reach a certain Target
  • All of the Progress KPIs must reach certain Targets
  • Some of the Progress KPIs must be within a certain range
  • One Progress Path might be high risk/high reward and another the safe option
  • Two or more Progress Paths might be needed because they start at different times
  • Try the first Progress Path. If its Tactics don’t work, try a different Progress Path.

The last option in the list above is worth making explicit. While modelling the business architecture, there may be several different Tactics that might work. The Investment is the cost, time and resources used to achieve an Objective and produce a Result. By putting them all of the Progress Paths into your bow tie diagram and therefore the business model, it is possible to compare the Investment required for each possible Result and to show that there is more than one way to achieve the Objective.

In a similar fashion, by having multiple Result Paths that Consolidate the Objective, it is possible to:

  • Choose one or more Result Paths to Consolidate depending on the initial Outcome
  • If the first Result Path does not work, try the second Result Path, etc.
  • Have two or more Result Paths needed because some might take a long time
  • Consolidate along all of the Result Paths to get all of the Results

It is also possible to divide the Bow Tie into manageable chunks. For example, when an objective involves lots of different teams, there could be a Progress Path and a Result Path for each team. One pair for the development team, one for QA, one for the sales team, etc.

The process of creating a STORM Bow Tie — including building its Tactics, Objectives, Measures, etc. and getting them ready for people to use — is called a Project. The process of using what has been built — people using the Tactics and measuring Progress, etc. — is called an Operation.

STORM within a STORM
Most organisations’ Strategic Objectives are far more complicated than a single Bow Tie diagram can show. To that end, it is best to keep individual Objective Bow Tie diagrams simple and build a hierarchy of parent/child Objectives.

Strategic Plan

Each objective has the potential to decompose into smaller objectives forming a hierarchy of objectives

The diagram above is a Strategic Plan that represents the Strategy. It is put together by the Strategic Planners. Each of the Objective symbols represents a Bow Tie diagram and the lower Objectives feed into a bigger Objective above. Note that there are two Strategic Objectives; the one at the top is The Strategic Objective whereas the child below is a Strategic Objective. It is called a Strategic Objective (not The) because it is important and, for example, it that could be:

  • It is more difficult or even impossible to achieve The Strategic Objective without achieving the child Strategic Objective
  • That Objective that has been promised to a stakeholder
  • It might make achieving other Objectives much easier
  • It might confer a distinct market advantage

Bear in mind the audience when using the term A/The Strategic Objective as it can change depending on who is viewing it. For instance, in the hierarchy diagram above, The Strategic Objective might well be for the whole organisation whereas the child Strategic Objective is for the Finance Department. However, as far as the Finance Director is concerned, theirs is The Strategic Objective because they have no sight of the parent above it. However, the best course of action is normally to give each Objective and the Operation to achieve it a name.

Just as the paths are important in STORM Bow Ties, there can be more than one path to achieve The Strategic Objective. If one path fails to meet expectations, it might be possible to switch to a different path.

Returning to the earlier subject of making Objectives measurable, it is worth noting that the more difficult it is to measure an Objective, the more likely it is that it needs to be decomposed into a parent with several child Objectives. As the Objectives become measurable, they normally influence and change the Objectives above them so creating the Strategic Plan is normally an iterative process.

The Perfect STORM
So far this document has covered all of the parts that go into making Arron’s STORM Pattern. There is also a process for implementing a strategy.

By decomposing a Strategic Objective into a hierarchy of simpler Objectives, it is possible to turn a high-level strategy into something that can be more easily understood. The further the strategy is decomposed, the greater the probability that its Objectives become simple and measurable.

With measurable Objectives in place, describe each of them using a STORM Bow Tie diagram. Start a Project for each diagram to outline its Progress Paths and Result Paths with appropriate reports and processes/procedures so that the Investment required for each Result is understood.

Once the Investments are understood, some of the Objectives will turn out to need too much Investment or be unrealistic. Revisit the Strategic Plan and adjust it accordingly.

Continue with the Projects for the Objectives that are still in the Strategic Plan, i.e. complete their architecture to a detailed level, design detailed processes and procedures, etc. and start getting them ready for people to operate.

In line with the Strategic Plan, start the Operations to achieve the Objectives, i.e. the people responsible for running the processes and procedures of the Tactics should begin work. Progress is reported to the Strategic Planners during this part of the Operation.

Once the Operation has achieved its Objective, the people responsible for running the processes and procedures to Consolidate the Objective should begin work. Outcomes are reported to the Strategic Planners during this part of the Operation.

When each Operation is complete, the Results are reported to the Strategic Planners and they adjust the Strategic Plan accordingly.

This continues until The Strategic Objective is achieved.

Afterword
This is the very first time that Arron’s STORM Pattern has been published. It is raw, needs refinement and there are likely to be lots of things that need better explanation. It is live document and there will be updated versions of Arron’s STORM Pattern. Comments are welcome.

 

Glossary

Consolidate A process or procedure that is used to produce the Result.
Investment The cost, time and resources used to achieve an Objective and produce a Result.
Measure A report that shows the positive or negative effects of the work being done.
Objective A positive event that the organisation wants to achieve.
Operation People using the processes and procedures to achieve an Objective and produce a Result.
Outcome The actual effect of achieving the Objective. The final Outcome is called the Result.
Progress Advancement towards the Objective.
Progress KPI A report that provides a measure of the positive or negative effects of the tactics.
Progress Path A single set of Progress KPIs and Tactics processes.
Project The design and build phases of a STORM Bow Tie and the things it describes.
Result The final Outcome of the Operation to achieve an Objective.
Result Path A single set of processes to Consolidate, the Outcomes and the Result.
STORM Strategy Tactics Objectives Results Measures
Strategic Objective, A An important Objective on the way to The Strategic Objective.
Strategic Objective, The The primary Objective of the strategy.
Strategic Plan A diagram showing the structure of the Objectives.
Strategic Planners The people responsible for designing and changing the Strategic Plan.
Tactic A process or procedure that is used to achieve one or more Objectives.

One thought on “Arron’s STORM Pattern

  1. I’d be interested to see a more explicit relationship between this and other versions of ‘bow-tie’ methods. My understanding is that the canonical bow-tie is about risk management (preparation before a disaster, and recovery after). Here you seem to be creating a parallel structure that’s about opportunity – preparation to achieve an objective, and routinization after. I should probably read more of your blogs – thanks for pointing me toward this one!

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