Friday, March 27, 2015

Digital Master Tuning #66: Three Perspectives in Strategy Planning

Strategy-execution is not just linear steps, but an ongoing continuum.

Today’s businesses are over-complicated and hyper-connected, hence, strategy planning also becomes a more challenging and complex scenario. Who should participate strategy making, how are you anticipating and preparing for the road ahead, without anticipation, any strategy you develop is flawed by design? Or what would you consider to be the optimal stage for integrating KPIs into the strategic development process? So how to clarify, anticipate and measure strategy?

Strategy clarification: More often, the word strategy is just another word for "Planning" or "Game Plan." Strategy gaps exist because the strategy is done by the 'top managers in the executive suite,' and implementation is left to those lower in the organization just to get on and do. Also, its relevance is defined in the context of within different layers of the business. It is a very broad term now and it could mean different thing to different people, hence, it causes confusion. Either Porter’s five forces or Minszberg’s 5Ps (plan, ploy, position, pattern, and perspective) are still relevant and illuminating. The point is that you have to clarify it when deploying it. The strategy could be at various levels, you could have a group strategy which shapes all the strategic domains of an organization which would be in the scope of the executive management group. You could have an operational strategies that would entail project strategies which would thrive to align itself with the program strategy, and then you could have an organizational development strategy that would align with the business strategy. It is being pursued within. The strategy is a very broad term now and encompasses everything from analysis of business intelligence, vision and values, business process management, marketing and viral social media communications through to leadership style and change management. It has been broken down into many sub-strategy with specialized fields. So in order to ensure strategy execution is going smoothly, you have to clarify your strategy content and context.

Strategy anticipation: Anticipation is absolutely necessary, but anticipation is too often missing in strategy development indeed. "Strategy" is definitely a different beast nowadays, because the speed of change is accelerated, it might be less about five years planning horizons and more about how to continually adapt to changes in the marketplace caused by disrupting technologies and consumer behaviors. Also, strategic development is too often seen as a linear process, but it is in fact a cyclical process that needs constant attention and tuning within bounds. It might be more about listening/sensing/learning and less about grandiose top-down visions but it remains the backbone of any successful organizations. Too many organizations rely on current data only to "predict" the future and are disappointed when that future doesn't come about (and is also why so many businesses fail). A strategic foresight approach enables the staff anticipation that is necessary for future success. Strategic foresight is a methodology by which an organization anticipates a range of alternative futures and then scenario-based planning to adopt a strategy that enables an adaptive stance for the organization, from which it can flex plans and execution as the actual future unfolds. A more cyclical approach also allows more checks & balances and makes it easier to evaluate progress vs. reality & market trends, which are moving too quickly to be taken for granted.

KPI metrics: KPIs and other benchmarks provide a basis for effectively evaluating progress vis-a-vis strategic direction. To boost the chances that you can execute effectively & efficiently, based on the added front-end work you are doing related to strategic foresight, you need to integrate critical KPIs/benchmarks that play to the survival instinct of your team. KPIs should be defined at some point in this ongoing, continuous strategic development cycle. At the start, a set of objectives should be defined and the evaluation of these objectives plus added knowledge about markets, environment and performance will automatically lead to the best possible KPI's to implement. The thought leaders need to help create/manage/expand/assess that ongoing process. Too often the KPIs and benchmarks are selected too early before you actually understand the market environment and the problems you must overcome to succeed. The KPIs and benchmarks ought to "emerge" from your thinking and learning about the future, not be dictated by fiat without that thought leadership. KPIs among other benchmarks should be dynamic, not static. More knowledge whether generated through market intelligence or otherwise, provides a basis for evaluating performance and making appropriate adjustments. Helping secure strategy commitment involves connecting it
1) directly to the survival instinct,
2) to impactful quantitative and qualitative benchmarks
3) into a larger framework for organizational success

Hence, strategy-execution is not just linear steps, but an ongoing continuum. Getting people on board is key. No matter how good the strategy, people at all levels of the company must be engaged, involved, and see the importance of change to buy in and make things happen, because culture would trump any attempt to create a strategy that was incompatible with an organization's culture. And then, you need to apply certain benchmarks, among other checks, along the way as a means of evaluating the progress of executing strategy.

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