Introducing the strategy dartboard

ALLEN Trench has spent many a long day (and the occasional night) trying to comprehend the intricacies of strategy development in the mining sector. However, this week he suggests he would have reached answers far quicker with the aid of a dartboard, albeit one with the doubles and trebles missing.
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Staff Reporter

Introducing the strategy dartboard


Strategy as a management discipline has great appeal. The mental picture of a group of erudite senior managers plotting success for their company with military-like precision to negotiate the battlefield of industry competitive forces makes one wish to be included.


Of course, strategy formulation is seldom quite so dashing, or even as seemingly straightforward as this in practice. Perhaps even some of strategy’s great appeal has become tarnished by the various revelations and scandals of recent years.


Indeed, if the smartest guys in the room are now amongst the baddies of the business world, would we be better to seek counsel from the dumbest blokes in the corridor to chart the path that lies ahead for our companies?


But whether strategy is best practised behind the closed doors of a room, out in the corridor or with the help of the best and brightest of management consultants, this week Strictly Boardroom thought it timely to reveal one of the most useful tools of the strategy formulation trade – the strategy dartboard.


Like most things that are extremely useful, the concept of the strategy dartboard is simple – and what’s more is that you get to make the dartboard yourself rather than just play with it.


Unlike a regular game of darts in which you get no say in the position of the treble 20, the 19 or the 18 (or for that matter the numbers 1 and 2), with the strategy dartboard you get to put the whole thing together from scratch.


That gives you the opportunity to plan for success. That’s powerful. Just imagine how much better you would perform at darts if the special board you were using had all of the high numbers bunched together.


The differences from a conventional dartboard go further too. The strategy dartboard is labelled with various strategic degrees of freedom rather than just a sequence of numbers.


What are strategic degrees of freedom you may ask? They are simple too – even if management consultants might make them sound complicated.


In the mining context, for example, you can choose which commodities to play in (and equally importantly which ones to avoid); you can choose the level of technological risk you are prepared to accept – and also for that matter the level of country risk.


Indeed, perhaps that is the simplest dartboard that applies to a mining company. Instead of 20 numbers the simplest strategic dartboard can have the equivalent of just three – commodity, technology and country.


Next on your strategic dartboard you have to decide what constitutes good and bad on each dimension. For one company, a new kryptonite project acquisition in a risky geography may be good – close to the bullseye – whereas for another company, that same commodity and project may be off limits (equivalent to an ill-thrown dart that makes a small hole in the wall, or in an unsuspecting barman, rather than hitting the dartboard at all).


So again keeping it simple, you are advised to divide the sections of the board into concentric circles – much like a regular dartboard. Close to the centre is good – hitting the outer is not.


So that’s it – very simple indeed. Then go about growing your company along those dimensions that are best suited to the assets and competencies you already have.


What other dimensions should be on your strategic dartboard? That’s up to you – and that’s where either your smartest guys or else your dumbest ones come to the fore.


You need to make the dartboard. So the concept is simple (as for strategy). Performing the task well with precision and accuracy is not (as for darts).


Good hunting – or should that be good darts?


Allan Trench is Adjunct Professor of Mine Management & Mineral Economics, Western Australian School of Mines and is a Non-Executive Director of Pioneer Nickel, Navigator Resources and Enterprise Metals. He leads the copper analysis team at the CRU group (