Every organization has a strategy.
At best, it is intentional, collective, simple, inspiring and helps guide all decision-making.
At worst, it is complicated, static and lives only in a binder on a shelf…
All too often the process of strategy development suffers from some fatal flaws. These flaws can be categorized as follows:
- The strategy is owned/crafted by the CEO or functional leader only
- The strategy is too complicated
- The strategy is not specific enough in terms of outcomes and/or tactics
- The strategy lacks clarity in terms of accountabilities around execution
- The strategy is not linked tightly with Purpose as a beacon for decisions
Any of these sound familiar?
Our experience as business leaders and as coaches/facilitators in strategy development has shaped our point of view and our unique approach to our strategy work:
- Integrate Culture into strategy development – this heightens engagement and accelerates execution;
- Bottom-up strategy development – this enables inclusion & collaboration;
- Strategy work must address what to STOP – making room for “the new story” to emerge and flourish.
Here is a guiding framework (CAUSE) which we hope is easy to remember and helps simplify and focus any strategy process. After all, a significant part of the value of strategy development is in the process itself. What is the strategic CAUSE for your organization?
C= Consider the Culture!
What is the desired culture? How can the strategy team integrate culture into the conversation and into the strategy? Should there be a distinct pathway in the strategy that focuses on culture? As the old saying by Peter Drucker goes, “culture will eat strategy for breakfast”.
A= Aspire to be/do
What are the collective aspirations of the organization? What are the 1-5 key outcomes (make them specific!) that will fuel the strategy? How does this link & align with personal motivations of the team? The strategy should also include crafting a compelling purpose statement that is 10 words or less that acts as a beacon for decision-making (if it doesn’t yet exist).
U= Unique advantage
What are the key ingredients that make up how the organization is different? Strategy is like a food recipe – it needs to contain a “secret sauce” of a few key ingredients. These ingredients should link directly with the aspirations of the strategy team. This is usually the most difficult to articulate. This often takes some soul searching to ensure it is not “same old, same old!” Unique advantage should also consider scope – What is the geographic/product scope of the business? How can it be refined and as focused as possible?
When we facilitate START/STOP/CONTINUE analysis as part of the strategy development process, a common theme is a difficulty in clarifying what to STOP. What tactics, initiatives need to discontinue because they no longer serve the purpose and strategy of the business? Strategy is often as much about what we DON’T focus on, as what we do focus on.
E= Energy for execution
Every organization is a living thing and ecosystem with efficiencies and inefficiencies. Who doesn’t want to, “work smarter versus harder?” At 1-degree, we define execution as: “Getting the right things done, by the right people, for the right reasons.” Living by that mantra will certainly create energy! A few tactical tips for strategy that will help energize the execution are: craft the strategy on 1 page for simplicity and so that it is more executable; have a “pathway” leader for each strategic pathway or pillar to instill accountability; and have a quarterly “pulse check” to review progress, challenges and re-calibrate priority tactics.
So, what is your 1-degree shift around strategy development?
What is the value of addressing this today?
If you have energy to optimize your strategy development, here are some ideas to start:
- Review your current approach to strategy development – which elements from our CAUSE framework can you integrate?
- Conduct a culture assessment (what is the current/desired culture?) and weave this into the strategy development process. Take it a step further and have a strategic pathway for culture!
- Expand your strategy authorship team to include some emerging leaders and front line leaders.
- Lead a strategy review/re-calibration in advance of annual planning and integrate it into annual planning efforts