Strategy

26th January 2017

The Two Box Method

As an avid reader I get to read all sorts of things and for some strange reason I found myself reading an article by a golf coach this week about the ‘Two Box Method’. I have no idea whether this is a well known or accepted methodology in the world of golf but it interested me. What this coach was suggesting is that a golfer should separate the two aspects of the game, strategy and execution. He or she should stand in a separate box when thinking about and decide upon the strategy and at that time, not think about the execution at all. In the strategy box, our golfer should think clearly about where he was going to hit the ball, with which club and what the end results would be, and why.

When the strategic decisions were made, then and only then should he step into the execution box. On stepping into the execution box he should no longer be having any strategy type thoughts. His entire focus in the second box would be on execution, mental and physical preparation and then ultimately be taking the shot; the perfect shot. I guess the principle is that he could concentrate on executing the perfect shot, with the benefit of a clear head, having left the mental trauma and stress of decision making behind in the strategy box.

I began to think that this was a neat way of working and although I am no golfer I could see how this method of working would provide much-needed clarity and structure to those who do play the game and clarity and structure are important. It also mirrored nicely the structure of the ‘Four Decisions’ that I use as a Gazelles certified Scale-Up coach. Those four decisions are; People, Strategy, Execution and Cash.

However, I often think that we stretch sporting analogies too far when we when we try to apply them to the world of business. And so my immediate thoughts were to say that the two box method couldn’t work in the field of business, because the world of business is too dynamic. There are too many variables. In golf the target –the ball- is static. It doesn’t move. In business our biggest source of problems, and therefore our biggest opportunity, are people. People are not things. They react and move and change. They are complex and capricious and therefore strategy and execution need to change also, and they need to change on the fly, in real time. Golf’s ‘Two Box Method’ would never work in the world of business.

And then I sat down to write this blog. One of the great benefits of blogging, or journaling if you don’t want to go public with your thoughts, is that it forces you to think in ink. It forces you to clarify your thoughts and as we know clarity is power.

I can now see that the ‘Two Box Method’ is absolutely necessary in business. We need to have the utmost clarity on strategy before we execute, as we also need absolute clarity on the other two decisions of people and cash. And yet it is also true that business is extremely dynamic and therefore things must and will change as other things change. But what will change are the tactics rather than the strategy; the details rather than the overall aims and objectives.

The clarity provided by the four decisions methodology is essential and when that clarity is coupled with the flexibility of individual talent and the discipline to just do it, it is a winning combination.

It was Mike Tyson who said, “everyone has a plan till they get punched in the face”. In business you are going to get punched in the face, hopefully only metaphorically, and when that happens you had better hope that your plan, your clarity of thought and purpose is strong enough, robust enough, ingrained enough to prevail, to carry you through to your chosen destination and that you also have the flexibility to develop the bob, or weave, or sidestep or whatever tactic you can master to stop you being punched in the face too often again.