Strategic Planning

For the last week I have been working with the DPP of Ghana, Chief State Attorneys, Principal State Attorneys and Judicial Police Officers, to draft a Strategy to Professionalize Police Prosecutors.

Being “strategic” is a word often used – but how is a successful strategy planned?

Richard Rumelt – one of the leading thinkers on strategy – opens his book “Good Strategy Bad Strategy” about Admiral Lord Nelson overcoming overwhelming odds at the Battle of Trafalgar. Coming from Portsmouth, the home of Lord Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, this is a part of history I’m familiar with. Although, I had never really considered Nelson’s strategic approach at Trafalgar.

The words that first come to mind when I think of Nelson are “inspirational leader, hero, brave” – but he was all of these because he had a good strategy to win a famous battle.

The French and Spanish fleet numbered 33 ships to Nelson’s British fleet of 27 ships. In naval terms, this disparity seriously reduced the odds of victory – as the tactic of the day was for the two fleets to fire broadsides at each other at close quarters.

Nelson, considering the challenge of less firepower, needed a different approach. He decided to put his fleet in two columns and hit the opposing fleet perpendicularly.

Nelson followed good strategic planning by identifying the challenges, determining how to overcome them and having coherent actions to implement his tactic. Knowing he was outnumbered, Nelson wanted to cause panic amongst the enemy through a different angle of attack and rely upon his experienced captains to take advantage in the melee and a heavy swell.

By the end of the battle the Franco-Spanish fleet had lost 22 ships compared to the British losing none. Nelson was killed, but through his successful strategy, Britain would rule the waves for more than a century.

Admiral Nelson

As Rumelt identifies, “Good strategy almost always looks this simple and obvious and does not take a thick deck of PowerPoint slides to explain.”

This week was a back to basics approach to diagnose the challenges to police prosecuting, devising a roadmap to address the challenges and agreeing realistic actions for implementation. The result is, we hope, a good strategy to ultimately establish a National Prosecution Service for Ghana.

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