3 simple words that changed everything for me

OSTThis blog is based on a book by Alastair Cambell who was “Spin Doctor” to Tony Blair and it’s some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. More on that later though.

I’ve always been a very target-focused person. Probably because hitting specific targets was a key part of my two major careers: IT and sales.

So I always had what I thought was an objective (hit that deadline or beat that revenue target) and a loose idea how I was going to achieve it and some day-to-day tasks to make it happen but there were 3 weaknesses I wasn’t even aware I had:

  1. My objective was really a measurement.
  2. I was weak on strategy but strong on tactics.
  3. It wasn’t all joined up so I regularly lost direction and momentum.

So what did I learn from Alastair then? Simple: Success is all down to objectives, strategy and tactics. Let me explain more.

Objectives – the “Why”

The reason why you’re doing what you’re doing; the end-game. You should be able to feel the outcome – it should make you feel excited when you think about it and when you tell other people.

It’s also a good idea if it’s aspirational – what’s the point if you can achieve your objective easily. Pick something that you know you’re capable of but will not be easy to reach.

Your objective is better if it’s measured in some way and has a deadline. Money, percentages, success rates, numbers; anything that you can use to tell you where your destination is and, at any point in time, how close you are to reaching it.

Some people confuse a measure with an objective. A personal objective might be “to smile every time I look at myself in the mirror” and the measure could be “to weigh 100 kg”. They are very different things. The first is emotive and the second is not. I think you need both.

Lastly, your objective shouldn’t really change very often unless a) you achieve it; b) it becomes apparent you’ll never achieve it or c) you discover you don’t want to achieve it.

Strategy – the “What”

So what are you going to do to achieve your objective? The answer is have a strategy.

A strategy is usually made up of a number of components. Each is usually a collection of activities – a heading if you will: create an automated pipeline to win new clients; make my people the best trained in the industry and so on.

Objectives will not tell you how you are going to do things only what. They are the big things you’re going to do and should quite naturally beg the question “how are you going to do that then?”

They don’t change very often but you must be sure that if you follow them you will reach your objectives.

Tactics – the “How”

These are the day-to-day activities that fall into one or more of your strategies and help you to improve you performance against your metrics (what you use to measure your objectives).

These can change according to circumstances or because there are changes that affect you. New things, changes in the law, competitors doing things differently, stuff you learn, things becoming obsolete or even a gradual decline in their effectiveness.

Example #1: golf

My objective: to walk up to the first tee confident I will not feel embarrassed by my tee shot. My measure is to reduce my handicap to 15 by the end of 2017.

My strategy:

  • improve my technique
  • practice on a regular basis
  • play as often as I can.

My tactics:

  • I’m going to have a lesson with the club pro every two weeks to improve the weakest part of my game at any given time.
  • I’m going to spend 30 minutes every week watching golf videos on YouTube.
  • I’m going to spend an hour at the driving range every two weeks and an hour on the putting green every other two weeks.
  • I’m going to play once a week with friends and enter a different competition each month.

Example #2: help a client to transform a business from one focus to another.

Objective: to be the foremost provider of on-line PR coaching in the UK. Annual revenue figures of £1m.


  • keep a steady stream of PR consultancy revenue coming in
  • work with the consultancy clients to create outstanding training material
  • build a platform to deliver their material on-line
  • build an automated new-client-acquisition model based upon on-line advertising.


  • Aim for longer-term PR consultancy assignments of 6 months or more
  • Always keep an active Relationship Pipeline to win new consultancy clients
  • Limit themselves to no more than 6 consultancy clients
  • Monthly client feedback on what works and what doesn’t
  • Use one-off seminars to test out new or updated material
  • Pricing options to include subscription, delayed payment and one-offs
  • Access to the material needs to be restricted to active clients only
  • Use an auto-responder such as Infusionsoft to manage the sales process
  • Refine usage of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn advertising


As John F. Kennedy once said “Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”.

My advice is whatever you do you should apply OST every time. Write them down and make sure your team knows what they are.

Measure, live, obsess, analyse and change as required in order to hit those objectives.

Was probably once the most powerful man in Britain?

Was probably once the most powerful man in Britain?

I’d also buy the book if I were you; here’s a link to it in Amazon. It draws upon his time working for Blair, his experience in business and sport, which is obviously a passion. It’s a good read all round but especially the part on OST.

I tweaked how I did OST by about 10% but saw an increase in results of closer to 70% in return. I can’t guarantee the same will happen for you but all I can say is I wish is I’d implemented OST a lot sooner!

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Posted in 0 Personal Development, Behavioural Change, Blog, Entrepreneurship, Leadership
6 comments on “3 simple words that changed everything for me
  1. Hosk says:

    I read something similar in good strategy, bad strategy. You create your goal, strategies, actions and schedule.

    You need to make sure your multiple strategies and action don’t conflict with each other, a holistic approach to strategy is needed.

    When I read advice like this it makes me think about all the company meetings I have attended where the someone mentions the goals\wishes but rarely articulates how the actions which will help achieve those goals.

    Great post

  2. Michael Halliday says:

    Mike, a good piece and one that resonates quiet well at present in something I am attempting to achieve.
    Sometimes that focus and conviction requires reassurance and guidance. Your words are timely and your article provides that focus.

    I shall adopt OST in my current venture and let you know the outcome.

    I do read a few of your pieces 🙂


  3. Richard Shaw says:

    Mike, really enjoyed this article and am in the process of following up on reading the book. OST is something I have used in both my working and social life but it is easy to get distracted and not review your OST’s regularly when you start to achieve success instead of building on the core principals.

    Very best wishes – Richard

    • Mike Ames says:

      Thank you Richard. I think that challenge applies to all of us and you know what I find works best? Including somebody inside your OST circle, preferably somebody who also has a stake in your success. I do this and it makes an enormous difference.

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