Our 4 Things Model: Does it ALWAYS work?


4 Things

We’ve been doing some more in depth speaking engagements related to Reboot lately, and some questions keep popping up that I think deserve a blog.

The questions are about the “4 Things” model within our Strategy M.A.P., the model that we use to help us assess strategic concerns and complete strategic visioning.  At their most basic level, the “4 Things” we always look at are Strategy, Technology, Delivery Method and Organization.

We get a variety of questions about this model, but they fall into a couple of flavors.

The first type of question is “Does this work for my organization even though we are _____”, where the “____” is “so big”, “so small”, “private”, “public”, “non-profit”, “some special industry”, etc.

The second type of question relates to where someone’s favorite topic fits.  Maybe they love performance measures … or financials … or capabilities and want those highlighted as major areas.  Or perhaps they believe the organization and delivery method are really the same thing.  Basically, it comes down to how you organize the analysis and planning.

The answer to both questions comes back to the George Box quote we reference in our book: “All models are wrong.  Some are useful.”  Or the less referenced quote by Box: “Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful.”

We’ve used the model across a dozen industries, with all types of company structures, with technology organizations ranging from zero people to thousands of people.  We (and our clients) have absolutely found it useful.

The secret is that we actually aren’t tied to our model.  We seem to use it on all of our projects because our clients quickly get it as a framework and appreciate the insights that come along with it.  But every project looks different.  We apply different tools within each of the four areas depending on the situation.

In the end, the model does what it needs to do:

  1. It gives the team doing the strategy something to work with, something to get the conversation going when doing an assessment and visioning their strategy
  2. It helps communicate both assessment and recommendations in a way that business execs not involved in all the gory details of the project can “get” quickly; we can fit an entire assessment on one powerful page

Yes, we like our model, because it useful.  That said, we  encourage modifying it or replacing it.  As long as you use a model that balances simplicity with comprehensiveness, you’ll be set.