D-day, the ultimate plan on a page


It was one of the largest, most complex moments of human endeavour in all history and it turns out the man in charge managed to distil his plans down to a single page.

The D-Day landings had to get more than 160,000 troops as well as hundreds of ships, vehicles and aircraft across the channel, in complete secretary and strict sequence, during a single day.

It was a mind bogglingly challenging task and despite being one of the most complex military operations of all time, new papers released by the Imperial War Museum show that it’s mastermind was able to describe the strategy on a single side of paper.

You can read more about General Montgomery’s one-page plan here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/06/montgomerys-one-page-d-day-plan-revealed/ but the thing that struck me most about the hand written note was the final few words which said “The key note of everything is SIMPLICITY”.

Working across the public sector we’re often challenged to produce robust communications planning, create reams of strategy, protocol and procedure which can often feel like an industry in itself.

Don’t get me wrong there should always be a plan, but when the planing process becomes a distraction to the outcome an organisation wants – or even worse eats up precious resources then it becomes counter productive.

A comms plan recently crossed my desk that ran to more than 10,000 words and was about a service that I would suggest was significantly less complex to deliver than the liberation of Europe.

My point isn’t that there shouldn’t be long, comprehensive plans to deploy effective communications where needed, but that they shouldn’t be there to simply justify their own existence.

In my view any PR plan needs to explain objectives, strategy and tactics and be firmly focused on what you want to happen and how you will achieve it. If you want a comms plan to be effective and easy for teams to implement then in the words of Monty again ‘the key to everything is simplicity’.

To labour the point even further read another much used quote: If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough.

Despite the complexity of the NHS one thing I’ve really enjoyed since joining is the widespread use of the plan on a page philosophy used for all kinds of different projects. Admittedly sometimes this means using a tiny font to squeeze everything in, but it’s always a page nonetheless.

Corporate plans can have lots of operational details in the background if you think it’s necessary, but all the very best communications work I’ve seen have one thing at the heart of the strategy – simplicity.


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