Top leaders often approach us with a sense of overwhelm, as they work tirelessly to propel their organizations forward and outperform their competitors. However, this feeling of constant hustle usually stems from a lack of clear purpose and direction within the organization. It's akin to a marathon runner who sprints relentlessly yet can't see the finish line.
When we listen to leaders struggling to understand their organization's growth challenges, we often find that they and their teams lack a clear understanding of why their organization exists and what they aspire to become. Recognizing that every organization is unique, this is a common starting point when assisting leaders who want to break free from the race of commoditization. Even if we begin with nothing more than a simple sketch on a napkin, pinpointing the starting line is crucial. Once we establish a baseline, we collaborate closely with our clients to choose one of two pathways to embark on the strategic journey.
The first pathway involves designing and developing a comprehensive strategy from scratch as if we are co-creating the organization and starting from day one. The second pathway combines an existing organizational philosophy and an understanding of identity with a relatively undefined plan for reaching a desired end-state goal. We often refer to this as “strategy review and planning.”
By grasping the essence of these pathways and introspecting, you can identify the direction your organization needs to take as you embrace your strategic journey.
Strategy Design and Development: Emotion for Action
Neither resources nor fancy strategic architectures are going to get your organization to the future first or more successfully than your competitors. Rather, getting there first and best is all about four critical levers: Mission, Vision, Alignment, and Resourcefulness.
These levers mean having a deeply felt sense of purpose, a truly seductive view of tomorrow’s opportunities, a broadly shared dream, and the ability to see into the future. To forge such a frame-breaking strategy, execution will require every pair of hands and heads in the organization. Launching and then achieving a strategy will need both a platform and ignitable fuel to ensure success.
The word “strategy” sounds so cognitive and conceptual. And, unfortunately, this is how many organizations treat it. However, when performed correctly, strategy operates in a completely different space—that of emotion and action. We’re speaking here about identifying the Values, Mission, and Vision that are central to identifying the organization's direction in life and solidifying commitments to success. When executed well, this initial work has a powerful effect on the team, identifying and discovering a feeling that can only be described as “team potency.” However, this marks only the beginning of this pathway.
Getting this part right demands that we lead our clients through an extraordinary amount of work. Together, we must: conduct historical business analysis; assess brand, culture, and core capabilities; steer a Driving Forces Analysis; and fashion core values statements. But again, this is only 2% of the work required to develop a strategy, and most of the time it’s where organizations prematurely think the work is complete.
The other 98% of the work is all about building the “Helm” of the ship by designing the necessary gauges to drive execution forward. Key elements of this process include several critical components:
The Strategy Map: The three- to five-year roadmap for execution aligned intimately with the vision of the organization.
The Balanced Scorecard: The key performance metrics with baselines and targets, strategic initiatives to drive the metrics of the organization, and most critically, the accountabilities responsible to lead the strategic initiatives and metrics.
The Strategic Initiatives Plans: The set of cascading milestones and actions to accomplish the monthly, quarterly, and annual goals.
Strategy Review: Reflect and Learn to Improve
As mentioned earlier, this pathway is ideally for our clients who already have a well-anchored and well-defined philosophy. We begin this pathway by working together to develop the strategy, as we described above, or with a very precise magnifying glass, we will critically review their existing strategy. The process of strategy review necessitates the organization's ability to introspect and evaluate its alignment with the mission and vision it set out to achieve, while also adapting to the ever-evolving marketplace. Furthermore, conducting a thorough review of a comprehensive strategy that evokes emotions and compels action requires a deep commitment and meticulous effort toward forward thinking.
By working closely with our clients, we guide them through the process of identifying both the strengths and vulnerabilities of their organization’s performance in relation to their strategy. This entails conducting an authentic and comprehensive assessment of their aspirations, objectives, available resources, and competitive positioning. During the strategy review phase, several key questions are addressed, including:
Is the organization still aligned with its mission and vision?
Are the resources being effectively utilized to drive performance and achieve desired results?
Is the value delivered by the organization sustainable and does it provide a competitive advantage?
Engaging in a strategy review enables an organization to reflect on past performance, learn from both failures and successes, and identify areas that require improvement. It allows for a critical evaluation of the organization's strategic direction and aids in making informed decisions to drive future success.
Determining Your Starting Point:
To determine your starting point and which pathway your organization may need to embark upon, reflect on the following:
1. Do we understand and can we all, from leadership to teammates, articulate an aligned core purpose and reason for existence?
2. Can we articulate what we want to achieve in the next three to five years that will propel our organization into a state of growth?
3. Have we identified the key long-term goals and performance metrics that will measure our success?
4. Do we have a clear set of annual goals with assigned accountabilities and action steps?
5. Have we recently taken the time to evaluate our current strategy?
6. Are we actively identifying and addressing weaknesses or gaps in our approach?
7. Do we analyze competitive trends and assess our position in the market?
8. Are we engaged in collaborative discussions to explore new strategic opportunities?
If you answered "yes" to these questions, chances are you are currently in the strategy review phase. On the other hand, if you find yourself stuck at the beginning set of questions, you are likely in the strategy development phase.
Whether you find your company in the strategy review or strategy development phase, it is crucial to allocate time, resources, and expertise to ensure your strategy remains relevant, scalable, and aligned with your mission and vision.
As experts in facilitating strategy design and execution, we have helped many organizations embrace the process, learn from the past, and keep their eyes on the future position for their organizations continued growth and success. Give us a call at 513-402-2282, we'd love to help you.
Remember, a successful strategy is an ongoing journey.