Can you articulate your company’s key strategic objectives? If so, do they provide clear and unequivocal guidance to you and your team about what is required to achieve success over the next few years?

Too often companies’ strategic statements are a mix of platitudes and hubris. For example, a strategic objective to deliver the ‘best customer service in the world’ is likely to receive nods of agreement from around the board table but is simply not precise enough to be delivered by the organisation.

At its heart strategy is about trade-offs. It is about choosing to invest time, resource and money in one area at the expense of another. If you are not specific about the trade-offs you are making do not be surprised if you don’t achieve the results you want.

Once you move away from platitudes to specific objectives, you will create the focus, alignment and momentum to deliver significant growth. For example, in the 1990’s Asda created its George clothing brand on the back of a goal to develop a serious, £1 billion clothing offer by 2000.

The Asda leadership didn’t just say they wanted to offer clothing, they said they were serious about it, identified a specific – and at the time, hugely ambitious – performance goal, and created a timetable and organisation for delivery.

I am currently finishing a client project where we have identified a few, big priorities for future growth. The work we have done will help the business deliver substantial profit increases, but we have also created a set of strategic objectives that are specific. We did this in three stages:

  1. Identify the key drivers of value for the business. We took the time and the data to get behind the ‘noise’ and the various opinions to really understand what will best drive the organisation’s future success and profit growth. From an initial list of 20 hypotheses we identified four key priorities that were immediately actionable and would have the biggest impact on the business.
  2. Determine the level of change required for each strategic priority to make a material impact to the bottom line. For example, we are proposing 50% improvements in the performance of certain areas of the business over the next few years.
  3. Validate your performance goals through internal and external benchmarking to provide management with the evidence that the scale of change we are recommending is both possible and necessary.

Critically, we did this work with a wide group of managers. Not only did this create more grounded objectives, but it enabled a powerful conversation between the executive team and the broader leadership group, building the organisational ownership and engagement that the business will need to execute the strategy.

Creating clear, precise, and actionable strategic objectives can have a profound effect on your ability to develop relevant, coherent and actionable delivery plans. Where does your strategy need to become more specific?