The problem with most strategic planning exercises is that they result in a beautiful written document, but nothing ever gets done.
In my experience, executives fail to implement strategy because they fail to complete a comprehensive strategic plan. There are three parts to strategy in any organization, and each is crucial. Most organizations skip one or more of these components, and that is why strategy rarely gets implemented properly.
The three parts to any strategy are:
- Strategic context. Contextual questions are the broad strategic questions that must be answered. Too many organizations assume that everyone already knows and understands the strategic context. This is rarely the case. Key questions to answer include:
- What are our overall internal strengths, internal weaknesses, external opportunities, and external threats? How do we use our strengths to capitalize on opportunities and minimize threats? How do we shore up our weaknesses to be able to avoid threats and not miss opportunities?
- Who are our desired customers? Who are not our customers? How are the needs of our desired customers changing?
- Who are our competitors? Who are not our competitors? How are our competitors changing?
- Which products/services do we offer our customers? What do we not offer? How do our products need to change to remain competitive? Which products should we de-emphasize? What new products should we offer?
- What do we do best? What should we do best?
- Is our business model, based on what we do best, profitable? How can we make it more profitable?
- Where do we not meet the market’s expectations? What do we have to do to get better?
- What kind of organization do we want to be?
- How will we measure success?
- Strategic Priorities. Strategic priorities are the key things an organization must do to continue to compete and succeed. Most organizations have too many priorities, and need your help to focus.
- Given the work done about strategic context, what are the 5-6 priorities that we must complete in order to be the best, serve our desired customers?
- What resources (people, time, money) are required for each?
- What is the action plan?
- What are immediate next steps?
- Which current initiatives should we de-emphasize or stop?
- Strategic Alignment. Strategic alignment is the part of strategy that makes sure that things get done. Many organizations talk all day about strategic priorities, but never finish them. They need to answer these questions:
- Who is responsible for each initiative?
- How do we track progress?
- How do we communicate success?
- How do we reward success?
- What tools and support do people need to succeed?
- What do people stop doing to make room for new initiatives?
Once all three elements of the plan are in place, and the leadership team agrees with the plan and commits to being accountable for achieving the desired results, then the strategy has an excellent chance of success.
The business consultant has the opportunity to utilize this framework and put in place an efficient process to assure results. Our program shows exactly how to do this.