Strategy like Fitness is Hard-Work
The benefits of a rigorous strategy program to an organization are like the benefits of a good exercise program to your body. You might sweat and groan a bit, but if you stick with it, your health and vitality improve tremendously.
Unfortunately, like fitness initiatives in January, most organizations have good intentions about strategy, but as soon as the budgeting is done, the interest fades. If this sounds like your organization, you are not alone.
Many organizations fail to recognize that strategy is a process not an event, and that an effective strategy program is motivating and galvanizing for employees, not distracting.
Six Frequent Strategy Program Misfires
Relegating strategy planning to the once-a-year off-site.
- Confusing strategy with budgeting.
- Assuming that strategy development is only for executives
- Developing a strategy plan in secret and keeping everyone else guessing about what it is.
- Confusing becoming a $x million/billion dollar company with having a strategy
- Investing a tremendous amount of time with outside consultants to put a team through a multi-month death march that results in a lot of paper and presentations and little substance.
These common misfires give strategy a bad name, and completely miss the reason why an organization should invest the time and energy in creating an effective and on-going program to define, shape, reflect upon and change strategy.
Six Suggestions for Creating a Healthy Strategy Program
- Create a strategy process champion that does not have functional or line of business responsibility and charter this individual with defining a process that incorporates all of the major steps from market and S.W.O.T analysis through opportunity identification and plan development. The management team should be involved in defining and approving this process, with the CEO acting as the project sponsor to ensure timely and positive cooperation.
- Communicate the nature of the strategy program and process to the broader organization and provide a rough time-line for the project’s major milestones. Describe how teams and individuals across the organization will be involved in the various phases of the project with tasks ranging from data gathering to market assessment, idea brainstorming and ultimately, strategy execution.
- The CEO must ensure that the management team understands their role in the strategy development process, and that they are prepared to provide their personal support and resources to assist in the creation efforts. If the organization has a board of directors with an active strategy committee, the CEO should ensure proper communication of board suggestions or directives.
- Once the strategy is developed and approved, the primary tasks shift to communication, education and implementation. The final phase of the strategy creation process is to define the communication program and to outline the structure and approaches to manage the execution process. Many processes fail at this critical juncture, because the strategy team believes that their work is complete once the strategy is approved by management or the board.
- A strategy execution team comprised of the managers from all functional groups should assume responsibility for translating high-level objectives into departmental or team tasks. The CEO or COO should chair this team, conducting regular update sessions and monitoring actions, milestone completion and results. Care should be taken to keep the execution team focused on operational issues around strategy implementation.
- An effective strategy program includes a commitment to monitoring results, gauging market acceptance and reporting on competitor reactions. Beware the tendency to treat the strategy as an unalterable con¬tract, and encourage teams to challenge the original premises as conditions change. The best strategy programs accept that they will need to constantly adapt to changing conditions.
Managing an effective, on-going strategy program takes commitment, just like a fitness program. The benefits that accrue from ensuring that everyone in your organization has a common vocabulary about the business and its direction, and that they are involved in developing, implementing or refreshing the strategy, are tremendous. Managed properly, an effective strategy program can be a culture-altering event, and like the clothes that fit better as a result of your regular exercise program, the benefits from this alteration are palpable.