A Strategy is a Blueprint for Competitive Advantage…
Strategic Execution is the Weapon…
The Execution of a Good Strategy Wins the War!
This mantra on strategy is so easy to write down. In truth though, there are very few businesses who actually do this well.
There are three reasons why this problem exists.
- Every strategy is dynamic and must be able to change and adapt to market forces as they occur.
- It’s bloody hard to implement a strategy that keeps moving.
- The implementation usually requires the efforts of various people across a business. The consistency of vision and purpose can be hard to communicate and as a result really difficult to achieve optimal buy-in.
Following is a guide and some useful tips on making your strategy development and execution foolproof.
When I first joined American Express, albeit a long time ago now, I came across a goal setting paradigm I had never witnessed before. Every single person in the company had the same goals from the CEO in the USA to the administration staff in some of Amex’s smallest markets. I can’t remember what the goals were. However, I have never forgotten how powerful and indoctrinating it was to know that every one of us was working for a common, well-communicated purpose. As management, we had a mantra for our people. “If you can’t see how what you are doing is helping to achieve at least one of our goals then stop what you’re doing.”
Now, you may be asking what has this got to do with strategy? By and large, most businesses develop a strategy to achieve their goals. If everybody in the business is charged with achieving the same goals and the strategy is the roadmap to achieving them. Then by definition, everyone would have a stake in the successful implementation of the plan.
Therefore, an exercise I undertake with my clients before we start strategy development is goal setting. The aim is to define the goals in such a way that every employee in the company is working on a common set of goals.
The best approach to this is merging a top down and bottom up assessment of the company’s goals. At the end of the exercise, not everyone will be working towards every goal in the company. However, everyone will be working to achieve at least one of the company goals. These are weighted and tied into KPI’s and at this point, you now have a solid platform to start to build an effective, executable strategy.
Busting the Strategy Myths:
Answer me this! How long would it take you right now, to access your current and up to date strategy? Is it on your desktop? Is it on your desk or stuck to your office wall? When you find it, can you be confident you are reading the most up to date version? Invariably, when I ask these questions in a client consult, I receive a lot of embarrassed stares.
Let’s quickly go through and throw some myths out of the window.
1. Your strategy is prepared annually and then set in stone for the next twelve months. Wrong!
Your strategy is a leaving breathing guide which must move and change with your changing environment.
2. It’s commercial-in-confidence, only management can have access to it. Wrong!
Yes, there should be some sensitivity to your strategy falling into the wrong hands. However, the more employees you have engaged and working to your strategies, the more likely they are to succeed. I err on the side of trusting my teams. I explain the sensitivity around sharing strategies so my people are empowered to know what’s expected of them. Then I like to make sure they understand their role in the strategy and unleash them to go and make it happen.
3. We had a great strategy, we just failed to implement it. Wrong!
If you can’t implement it then it’s not great. Full stop!
Implementation needs to be core to developing your plan. It needs to form the basis of your strategy.
4. It has to be this comprehensive, page heavy document. Wrong!
It has to be a working document. It needs to succinctly spell out what steps you intend to take to achieve your goals. Remember, in these times of change, if your document isn’t changing then your strategies will always be out of date.
5. A Strategy has nothing to do with Marketing. Wrong!
If your objectives are to grow your business. If you have goals to increase revenue and profitability. Then, my friends, your strategy is 100% about marketing. If this observation is foreign to you, I recommend my e-book. Why Marketing Fails… Download Now.
Building an Implementable Strategy:
Firstly, it’s important to recognise that company structure has an impact on how to put in place an implementable plan. Aligning common goals and tailoring tactics and action plans is not linear. Think of your business as a pyramid. At the Executive level, clearly, they are responsible for the successful delivery of all goals. As we venture deeper into an organisation, resources become more focused.
An employee may only be accountable for the delivery of one of the common goals. The challenge is how we manage all the stakeholders in a cohesive way allowing for the many variables that will exist in any company. How do we avoid any essential elements of the strategy and it’s successful implementation from falling through the cracks? In other words, how do we make this process foolproof?
I work with clients using a common template. It consists of:
b. Role in Company
d. The list of all company goals
e. A high-level summary of the strategy for each goal – This allows management to provide all employees with context.
f. A weighting input – This allows me to stipulate the importance of each common goal to an individual.
g. Task lists per goal
h. Budget per task
i. Human links in successful delivery – This makes sure everyone involved in the successful implementation of the task is clearly identified and engaged in the process.
i. The timeline for delivery
j. Milestone points
k. KPI’s per milestone
The template becomes every individual’s living breathing strategy document.
Here is a sample:
The form above gives you a clearer picture of how each step comes together. It’s the linkages that help make the process foolproof and therefore your strategy foolproof. The important take away is not the form. This can be applied over almost any existing operating system from SharePoint to SAP. The important point is the steps involved in making your strategy foolproof. Bringing common goals, a passion for sharing the journey and the steps needed to develop an implement foolproof strategies is what will make your business a winning business.
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About The Author:
Joan MacDougal is the founder and owner of Macrison Co Pty Ltd. Prior to Macrison, Joan held senior roles at both American Express and Telstra. With 30 years of front-line marketing, advertising and communications experience, Joan brings honesty and perspective to her views on better marketing, communications and advertising. Visit Joan’s website www.joanmacdougal.com to get to know Joan a little better. For more information on our Services click here Macrison Services
- McKinsey – Mastering the Building Blocks on Strategy
- Harvard Business Review – A 40 Year Debate…
- Harvard Business Review – Many Strategies Fail…