Talking Productivity: Episode#1 – The powerful OST

Solve your problems very effectively using this simple OST concept. You will be amazed…

Whenever you encounter a problem or want to accomplish a goal, the approach you should take can seem very unclear. People are typically very bad at defining the real problem in the first place, let aside decomposing it in ‘sub-problems’ and then working step by step to solve it.

The concept I will explain is very simple yet powerful. I now use it every day to solve problems structurally and probably it will be highly valuable for you.

I bumped onto this ‘OST’ concept while reading the book ‘Winners’ by Alastair Campbell.

OST means:

  • Objectives first
  • Strategy second
  • Tactics third

Think about it: doesn’t it happen often in your meetings, projects, conversations, … whatever human interaction, that the objectives are unclear. We all know the email that states ‘let’s meet’ without a why. How many actions do you take that are in line with well defined objectives? Don’t get me wrong: not everything should be planned. For example spending time with your family, spontaneously. However, if you ask someone ‘how are you doing’? The reply is too often ‘very busy’. Productivity when it matters just makes you happier.

“If you do not have a clear objective, you have no definition of succes. If you do not have a clear strategy, you have no chance of winning. And if all you have are tactics, you have no right to win.” Alastair Campbell

How we typically approach our problems: the non-optimal way

Just go with your problem to a friend. Probably he or she will be very glad to help and start offering T – tactics: very concrete solutions for a problem as they observe it. For example:

  • ‘You want to lose weight, you should do fitness’
  • ‘You want more customers, you should run a LinkedIn ad campaign’

However, unless you have clearly defined your objective, you don’t know if these tactics will work. Stating your objectives would sound like this:

  • ‘I want to lose 3 kg in the coming 6 months’
  • ‘I want to increase my profit by 30% next year’

Have you noticed the difference? Concretely describing what you want to achieve, without any solution bound to that, yet. And in the business example, it became clear that the real objective was increasing profit, not customers.

So why do we need the S: strategy? Let’s see what happens if we skip it and go directly from O to T:

  • ‘I will go running 30 minutes, 2 times a week’
  • ‘I will run a LinkedIn ad campaign for 2 weeks’

We just missed a lot of opportunities and potentially did not choose the most effective tactics. How do we know? This is where S -strategy is all about: offering the solutions from broader perspective with more possibilities. Let’s do it. S-strategy would sound like this:

  • ‘I should sport more, change eating habits and spend some time with a friend that can help’
  • ‘I have to do focused marketing (for customers I want and define) and increase customer retention’

The S just showed much more areas in which action (T) can be undertaken. Final T then looks like this:

  • ‘I will: go running 30 minutes, 2 times a week – not buy peanuts anymore – ask Stephanie (who has great health habits) to help me checking my progress, or at least tell me about my plans’
  • ‘I will: run a LinkedIn ad campaign for 2 weeks focused on my ideal customers and will schedule calls with my existing customers to assess their happiness and remaining problems I can eventually solve’

To summarize:

  • O clearly defines what you want to achieve (keep asking why until you can’t go deeper)
  • S defines different areas in which solutions lie
  • T defines concrete actions to be executed

So what are the benefits?

  1. You will become more successful, and NOT MANY PEOPLE ARE USING IT
  2. If you know O you know when you can celebrate a victory

It just works guys. Try it and let me know what you think by commenting! Sharing it would mean so much to me…

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