We live in a business climate of remarkable change. Entire industries with fortresses around their business models have been decimated, leaving former market leaders as failed relics of the past.
Inconceivable change has become mainstream whether it is Uber turning the taxi industry upside down or Amazon continually reshaping the retail landscape. No industry is immune, and strategy is no longer just about getting ahead of the competition ... it is required just to keep up.
In this time of great change, it is perplexing how little the process of developing strategy, the primary tool for organizations to build their futures, has evolved to meet today’s challenges. The strategic planning process that came out of the military in the 50’s last saw a major refinement in the early 80’s when Sears was a giant of retailing, A&P the largest grocer and Amazon was simply known as the world’s largest river. In fact, if anything, the traditional process of strategic planning has become even more institutionalized and ceremonial. Year after year organizations follow the same cookie-cutter process as their competition, often using the same market intelligence and then are surprised when the strategy fails to differentiate them in the marketplace!
If this process produced outstanding results it would all be understandable. But the facts illustrate that up to 70% of companies report falling substantially short of the strategic intent outlined in their strategy. More often than not, they point to the strategy process and execution as the culprits of failed strategy.
The time has come to re-think the strategy process by adopting these five critical elements that will transform strategy into a purpose-driven process focused on the future; building momentum through execution.
- Integrating the mission, vision, and execution into a strategic purpose
All too often the mission, vision, and execution are developed as separate exercises, which acts to dilute their meaning into forgettable unrelated sound bites. Companies that embrace strategy understand thepower of vision, strategy, and execution as exponential when they are integrated into a defined strategic purpose. A single integrated message inspires people and connects them which builds momentum through engagement.
- 2.Transform the situational analysis into a discovery process
The meaning of the word ‘situation’ is the circumstances in which we find ourselves. By design, this process shines a light on what is known, not what is possible. By shifting the exercise to a future-focused discovery process an organization can produce a rich picture of the possibilities and challenges, which are more aligned with the future. The portrait of strategy draws its color from this process. An organization can choose the colors of the past or a rich and vivid set of new colors to paint their future.
- 3.Strategy is equal parts of what you will do, and what you must stop to do it
Failed execution is all but assured when an organization only focuses on the future strategies without equal consideration about what needs to change to achieve those strategies. Leaving behind what is no longer needed to focus on the needs of the future is the discipline that separates companies that have great intentions versus those organizations that achieve results.
- 4.Make the complex simple
Great strategy is a lot like eating in a great restaurant. The presentation, atmosphere, and quality make a great experience, but if you ever saw what went on the kitchen you’d never eat the meal. In the same way, there is much complexity in the why, what, and how strategy is derived. The clarity of the presentation and communication of strategy determines how it will be consumed and acted on by those charged with executing it. The simple balance of why and what connected to individual contribution makes a great meal.
- 5.Connecting organizational purpose to individual purpose creates buy in
One of the most consistent issues that surfaces in employee satisfaction surveys is a lack of understanding of the strategy. This often perplexes leaders who have gone to great lengths to communicate the strategy. What is missed is that people need to connect to purpose first. Why we do what we do emotionally connects those charged with execution to the cause of strategy. With this foundation, what we do and each employee’s role in it are more clearly absorbed. The result is an organization that builds momentum through execution.
Purpose driven strategies are, at their core, leadership driven and organizationally inspiring. The strategy feeds the culture and the culture feeds the execution of the strategy. Incorporate these five elements into your process to build sustainable leadership.