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Does Strategy Have To Be So Hard? The G.O.S.T Method

I am in a peer group of fellow Senior Managers and Executives. Every month, we get together for a keynote presentation and to discuss business. Nearly every presentation is a new model for “How to do Strategy” – finally a silver-bullet, simple-to-implement process to replace the complex and confounding ones we’re all used to! Except, the promise of simplicity is never actually delivered.

As a Brand Manager that’s been through nearly 15 years of clients’ planning cycles across a variety of industries, I’ve seen my fair share of planning workshops, planning processes, and plans on a page. The one thing binding them all together – they’re often complex, serve the needs of a few (senior) stakeholders, and are not so much collaborative as they are a pressure test of the team’s capability and smarts.

I’ve decided there’s got to be a better, simpler, more productive, and more collaborative way to do strategic planning. Of all the models I’ve seen, one introduced to me by Christopher Owens, who learned from Jane Newman, stands out the most. It’s called GOST.

GOST stands for Goals, Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics. It is a straightforward framework that can guide the strategic planning process in a more collaborative, effective, and less intimidating manner.

  • Goal is the big-picture aim of your company. It should be a singular, measurable, achievable, long-term target that you want your organization to achieve. For instance, a goal might be to live until you’re 100.
  • Objectives are specific, measurable steps that will lead you to achieve your goal. They provide clear milestones and are tied to specific timeframes and metrics. An objective towards the above goal could be to lose 20 pounds in the next 2 years.
  • Strategies are the general approaches you will take to achieve your objectives. They provide a direction but do not detail the specific actions. A strategy for losing 20 pounds could be working out or eating healthy.
  • Tactics are the specific actions you will take to implement your strategies. They are the practical, on-the-ground activities that will get you closer to your objective. They usually have specific timelines and budgets dedicated to them and a clear owner. A tactic for working out could be to pay $10/month for a gym membership and going to the gym 3 days/week.

At our agency, we’ve adopted the GOST model as our foundational framework for strategic planning. Better yet, we’ve implemented the GOST model into an approachable, collaborative process that is simple, yet effective. It consists of a few key milestones:

  • The GO Meeting kicks us off with our senior leadership in the room to align on our objectives for the business over the next 1 – 5 years. In this discussion, there will be one objective that clearly becomes the most aspirational, North Star of the organization. It will be the objective that can only be achieved with the completion of many others.
  • Once our goals and objectives are aligned, our Strategy Work Session brings in stakeholders from each relevant department to brainstorm “how” we will meet our objectives. Yes – we jump straight into tactics! Once enough tactics are on the walls, we group them into relevant themes. If we have multiple tactics that are closely related, the common thread becomes a Strategy.
  • With our GOST elements defined, we finalize our process by creating something that can easily be transmitted and communicated across an organization or department – a simple Plan On A Page. We finalize the agreed-upon GOST elements and with each Tactic we assign an Owner, Budget, and Timeline to create accountability and commitment.

The beauty of our GOST framework and process is it can be scaled in both time horizon and scope. It can be a holistic undertaking for a start-up working on a 5-year plan or a 1-year plan for the Marketing team. At 270B, we’ve used it both personally and professionally.

Interested in knowing more? Be brave and reach out!

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