In difficult, turbulent times how do you keep a focus on your longer-term objectives? Many business leaders I work with find it relatively easy to identify and develop strategic visions for their companies. For them, the difficulty comes in translating these ambitions into immediate results.
Last week, for example, I was working with an executive team to create practical strategies to deliver a challenging three-year performance goal. Despite setting the goal a year ago, economic and trading pressures meant they had failed to make any meaningful progress.
As with many other businesses, they had become caught in the trap between their long-term aspirations and their need for short-term success.
So how can you make the leap from short-term tactical actions to long-term growth? Here are 3 practical approaches which can help:
Establish and pursue medium-term themes. As part of their 1990s turnaround, the Asda executive established six areas of focus for ongoing investment: Truly different stores; Offering 5-10% better value; Stunning fresh food from craftsmen; 25% unmatchable mix; A serious clothing offer; and Sold and served with personality. These areas of focus – called the ‘formula for growth’ – remained in place through to Asda’s purchase by Wal-Mart in 1999 and helped managers align their short-term actions with their bigger, longer-term goals. What are the medium-term themes that could link your long-term aims with your short-term targets?
Focus your innovation efforts on what won’t change. By any definition you care to use, Amazon is an innovative business. Yet, Amazon’s approach to innovation is different to most companies. Rather than focusing on the constant changes in the desires and needs of its various customer segments, Amazon’s executive team have agreed on three drivers that they believe will not change in the midst of the turmoil of today’s business environment: range choice, low prices and fast delivery. On their own, these priorities look relatively simple, even a little boring. But they have been critical to the company’s success over the past 20 years. Amazon’s Marketplace, Amazon Prime, Kindle, Amazon Web Services and Amazon Fresh have all been borne from an organizational-wide focus on these three priorities and have rapidly accelerated the company’s growth and profitability. What are the customer needs in your market that will stay relevant over the next 10 years or more and which should form the core of your innovation actions?
Create a series of 100-day plans. Every manager knows that you can’t do everything at once: there is a need for focus. Yet, that truth should not mean that all your meaningful strategic actions are pushed out to Years 4 and 5 of your 5-year plan. Personally, I am a big fan of 100-day plans. 100 days is long enough to get something serious delivered but is short enough to mean that there is real zest and energy to deliver. Identifying priorities that can be delivered within 100-days and which meaningfully contribute to your short-, medium- and longer-term goals can build genuine organisational engagement and momentum towards your strategic ambitions. What 100-day priorities could you set for your business that will both accelerate the delivery of your strategy and hit your short-term targets?