Strategy into action
Strategy into Action
I’m launching a new website so need to write some ‘stuff’ – hopefully interesting, possibly useful and always going to be my personal take on something. As one colleague said “well you have to start with Strategy into Action – it’s what you’re known for and best at”. So here goes – my first blog….. all feedback welcome.
One of most common reasons I am approached at work is along these lines:
“we’re a bit stuck, we want to grow the organization but don’t know how ” or “we’re losing money – we need to grow the business”. Can you help?
Across the organisations I have worked with strategy is often ill-defined, poorly understood and rarely applied. There are often wrangles about who ‘owns’ the strategy – the board or the leadership team (which in itself can be indicative of much greater malaise that I’ll return to in a different blog). The very existence of the strategy is usually nowhere on the radar of the organizations’ staff nor its service users – and why should it be when in reality many strategies are incredibly boring, are little more than poorly designed window dressing or are entirely detached from every day experience.
I have worked with organizations where the Board think they are in charge of the strategy – whilst the leadership team ignore it entirely until they have to report progress against it (to the board obviously) at the end of the year.
Conversely I have worked with other organisations where the leadership team set big strategic aims “we are going to help 10 times more people” – with no sense of who the people might be, why they might want the help or who was going to pay for it.
It’s trite to say the following things – but that makes them no less true:
- A good strategy is jointly owned and commonly understood across an organization
- It is grounded in reality and aspirational in approach
- It sets broad parameters and constraints for the organization rather than setting a blueprint or a straitjacket
- It has to be applicable in context rather than just painting a picture of the world as we’d like to see it
Invariably my starting point is to ask some simple questions like: why do you exist, how have you ended up here, why do you want to grow.
Should be simple but often organisations have got so busy ‘being’, delivering services and worrying about their budgets the ‘why’ gets forgotten or simply taken for granted.
I would always recommend pausing and using these periods to reflect upon #purpose and #mission and to really re-engage with your workforce, partners, service users and funders. You have an opportunity to look at the world afresh through their eyes and from their perspectives.
People are invariably generous with their time and keen to contribute so don’t waste the opportunity, don’t take it for granted and definitely don’t just play it lip-service. It’s a gift and you should receive it graciously.
The next stage is to take the feedback, really hear it and try to understand it and what it’s telling you for good and ill. Then you can start to work through it’s implications and build your strategy. With a deeper understanding of who you are, why you exist and what your strengths and weaknesses are you have a much firmer grounding.
There are a million academic texts and models to use and us consultants like to cite loads of them so you know how well read are. My recommendation is that if you want it to be meaningful, owned and more importantly applicable is to find a format that is consistent with you other communication styles and tone of voice. Whatever format you pick or model you want to use you will find yourself in this kind of ballpark:
- Our Vision(purpose) is this….
- We believe (values) that….
- Our mission is to make this possible ….
- We do this by (strategy)…..
Then in order to do this you will need to focus upon:
What you do, who you do it for, how you do it, who will pay for it and how will you know it it’s any good.
From here you can then think about the approach to Business & / or Organisational Development that will help you get there.
This is a big commitment – it requires thoughtful leadership, engagement and openness. But when done well in my view the results can be profound and long-lasting. A shorter term approach to ‘lets win more business’ may bring you short term relief but is unlikely to be very inspirational or long lasting we can all think of organisations across every sector who eventually just ran into the ground in the pursuit of mythical limitless growth.
I have worked on many strategies – and some have even been successful. Happy to talk more.