As a strategist I am extremely fortunate to spend the majority of my time working with clients to shape their ideas into new strategies to achieve growth. Unfortunately, even the most brilliant strategy will not achieve its potential without great strategic management. All too often, I see teams work hard to develop great strategic thinking, distill all of it into a brilliant plan, present it to favorable audiences and will support and then, nothing happens. They fall into the pit formed between Strategy Development and Strategy Implementation.
Does your organization lack strategic management practices to bridge this gap?
Here are some of the root causes that I have seen kill great strategy.
- Rigid planning and managing practice. In the majority of entities, performance is tracked and rewarded against targets that align with annual budgeting cycles. Executive teams work hard to create those budgets weeding through requests and setting clear priorities they believe are best to achieve their business goals. This exercise is usually onerous and only done once a year. Even with quarterly status updates, the focus is performance against plan. There is rarely the opportunity to explore emerging issues or new strategy ideas; that has to wait until the annual planning or long-range strategic planning cycles.
- A.D.D. Yep, Attention Deficit Disorder. Maybe I am a bit jaded because I live a hot bed of new ideas where startup companies reach celebrity status (San Francisco), but one of the worst dynamics I have witnessed in larger companies as well and with smaller more entrepreneurial companies is an inability to stay focused on a new idea long enough to see it realize a fraction of its potential. As a culture we have developed incredibly short attention spans that if a new idea takes more than a few months to achieve results (which all the really revolutionary ones do take more than a few months), we deem it a failure and move on.
- Poor gardening skills. Gardens left unattended to look like a dangerous briar patch. Companies that are not disciplined about examining and integrating their strategies, brands, products lines and markets create a dangerous environment for new ideas to thrive in. Resources are always limited and unless there is a healthy environment for a new strategy to establish itself, it will be choked out.
Three ways to strengthen your strategy management practices.
- Plan out only a % of your resources during your annual budget cycle. When we wrap up a strategic planning project and lay out the implementation plan, we ask our clients to plan against only 80% of their resources. No plan incorporates all the possibilities, it can’t, it is only the best guess at that time, so don’t box yourself into a corner. Don’t plan to use 100% of your resources in your annual budget so you are not in a position to flex and take on a new idea. Keep a reserve to drive strategic performance.
- When you examine an emerging idea and decide you want to integrate it into your operations, ask about the time for achieving results and then plan for it to take longer. If you can’t wait that long and you need the results it will provide, increase the resources asked for, cut out something else and give it the attention it needs to reach the results you require. Just like children, great strategies don’t raise themselves.
- Regularly audit your business every three or four years to evaluate what you can stop or reduce focus on. Make room for high performancer and new ideas. Prune and replant where needed and constantly communicate that it is all part of good strategic management discipline. If you prune on a regular basis, it will not alarm anyone and you will be proactively realigning resources rather than just letting things die on the vine. We typically engage in these sorts of auditing processes during the Strategic Assessment phase of a Strategy Summit™ engagement. This is a good time to take the broadest look and make changes, but you can also build this into your annual planning process too.
Strategic thinking helps organizations stay vital and on the edge of catching the next wave, but it’s not automatic, and it’s not always easy. How well prepared is your team to lead strategically?
Take our strategy ready to to find out how well prepared you are to lead strategically.