I’ve recently been sharing how you can carry out a 6-Day Strategy for your business. I’ve already covered Day 1 on your Current Position, Day 2 on Future Possibilities, Day 3 on Setting the Direction, Day 4 on Defining the Organisation and Day 5 on Shaping the Agenda. The objective of Day 6 is to prepare for launch and to begin the process of delivery – or, as I like to call it, the last 98% of strategy!
High-level strategy is as useful to most workers in an organization as a high-flying airliner is to people in a bus queue. The bus passengers may briefly look up and notice the plane and its vapor trail, but, even if it is traveling in the same direction, it cannot possibly help them reach their destination. Similarly, unless you can bring your strategy down-to-earth it will have no discernible effect on your organization’s performance, or, worse, it will create confusion, paralysis and decline.
Many leadership teams, in their excitement and enthusiasm to turn their strategy into reality, fail to take the necessary steps to ensure that the strategy is sufficiently grounded and that the organization is able and geared up to deliver it. But you cannot leave your strategy at 50,000 feet: you have a critical leadership task of translating your strategic vision and of creating the conditions for your strategy to be delivered by managers and teams across the organisation.
There are seven areas to cover during this session:
- Building genuine alignment. A lack of executive alignment and bring your organization to a standstill. Tiny differences of opinion in the boardroom can become huge divisions across the organization, rapidly reducing your chances of successful implementation. Alignment is best developed through genuine involvement and by involving your team throughout this 6-day process, you will have increased your chances of success. Your first task today is to run an open and honest discussion of what people like about the emerging new strategy, but also uncover their concerns and reservations. These should then be defined and, where necessary, plans put in place to address them, for example with contingency plans.
- Communication. The strategic intent should form the basis of all communication across your organisation. Communication isn’t so much about the big conventions and set-piece events, it’s about the corridor conversations and one-to-one meetings you have whether it’s in your office or on the front-line. At this stage, you should focus on what the key messages will be and how you will share them across the business.
- Resource allocation. Resources should be allocated on their ability to deliver the agreed strategy, and not simply reflect historic trends and decisions. The allocation of your scarce resources is the crunch time for your strategy; it’s where the rubber hits the road, where people will determine whether or not you’re walking the talk and see if you mean business (further clichés available on request!). Seriously, your strategy is only as effective as your willingness and ability to invest the necessary resources – financial, people or key assets – to help deliver the results you’re after. You won’t be able to run a full budget on this day, but you should start to map out where you are willing to invest behind your strategic priorities.
- Talent deployment and development. Your best and most able people should be leading the delivery of your key strategic priorities. Not only does this increase your chances of success, but it also sends a signal to the organization about what you consider important. Who are the key people to play leading roles in each of your strategic objectives?
- Setting accountabilities. Individual performance, and the collective performance of the top team, should be directly based on implementing the strategy. This requires breaking down your strategic objectives and programs into lower-level objectives that can be owned and delivered by managers across the business. The leadership team for each of the strategic objectives should now break down the high-level goal into more detailed goals and objectives, with timings, that can be reviewed and managed.
- Aligning goals and KPIs. Your KPIs should mirror the strategy, as should your associated rewards and bonuses. Focusing your reporting around KPIs, and not just project plans, ensures that people remain focused on delivering results and not just managing tasks. As you identify these KPIs, you should also determine what this means to each of your key departments and functions, so that their performance goals are aligned with the new strategy. That way, strategy and the day job become integrated, rather than be two separate organisational objectives.
- Defining performance management. The final task is to agree how to review and follow-up on progress. I recommend a regular meeting of the top team to review progress against both the agreed milestones and KPIs of each of your strategic objectives. Many executives suggest that the top team should meet once every quarter or half-year, but I don’t think this creates the right cadence of review. Instead, to begin with at least, I suggest a monthly review, led by the CEO. It doesn’t need to be an overly-long meeting – possibly 60 or 90 minutes – but this approach will establish the importance of strategy delivery, let everyone that you will be following up and ensuring execution and create a cadence of review and delivery that can drive the pace of delivery across the organisation.
Having run through this agenda, you should now be in good shape to launch your strategy. Your final task of the day is to set a further meeting no more than three weeks from this session to hold your first strategy review session. You can then check that each of the strategy teams have started their work in earnest and that issues such as resource allocation and re-setting goals and KPIs have been addressed.
After all, it’s now time to get going and make things happen. As the great management writer Peter Drucker once put it, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work” And while God may have rested on the seventh day, Day 7 of this strategy process is when the hard work really begins!
© Stuart Cross 2020. All rights reserved.