February 2020 – Alan Bird
So, you’ve completed your strategic business plan. It has all the ground-breaking ideas your leadership team have come up with. It spells out in detail the long-term plan for growth.
But if you are honest, since then, there’s a possibility that it’s been sitting in the drawer beginning to gather dust figuratively speaking. People in the organisation might not really understand how it drives their day to day focus. Let alone their decision making and priorities.
is yet crystal clear or personally ‘bought into’ the direction. People are perhaps
not really sure what they are executing against.
You hope the
current direction and plan will be enough to get the organisation or department
(and you personally) through to the next financial year. To finally have some time & headspace to
work on the real strategy & priorities.
Do your key people really understand your plan?
planning as such is only really effective when it gives people purpose and
meaning on a day-to-day basis and guides the organisation in a practical sense.
Michael Porter quoted; “Every success,
every mishap, every opportunity seized or missed stems from a decision someone
made – or failed to make. The culprit?
Ambiguity over who’s accountable for which decisions.”
effective strategic plan enables people to make relevant short term decisions
quickly and with confidence.
A key measure
of the potency of a strategic plan is how clearly people can talk about their
personal day-to-day role as it relates to the long term direction and goals of
strategic planning approaches typically do not accommodate or tap into the
emerging demands or authentic inclusion crucial for them to establish real
purpose, direction to execute.
Traditional strategic plans are typically weighted towards tedious
business analysis, long term predictions, and heavy competitive bench-marking.
traditional approach to strategic planning hardly stands up against today’s
rate of social and technological change.
To get true alignment, planning involves people at all levels of the organisation. So they have an opportunity to have input and influence. And ultimately know where to execute. Bringing alignment of all parts of the organisation with clear understanding and acceptance of inter-dependencies.
True organisational alignment comes through
objective comparison and critique of plans which have been produced by those
that execute them.
If your plan doesn’t start with your customer – its missing the key ingredient
Are you taking note of the facts and
experience at the cold face of your customer and market or are these in some
cases being misunderstood or ignored?
plans are developed from eyes that are inside looking out. Sometimes from what we refer to as “the
smartest person in the room”. We’ve
all met one or two.
Ron Carucci reminds us in HBR that Executives
Fail to Execute Strategy Because They’re Too Internally Focused “focus is
pulled toward internal issues: resolving conflicts, reconciling budgets, and
managing performance. Consequently, they pay less attention to external
strategic issues like competitor moves, customer needs, and technology
board members, executive and management might have many valid and bright
ideas. BUT……are often not solving
the big & real problems that your customers face.
Plans need to
be based on a genuine understanding of your customer and partners.
Developed as a
‘living and breathing plan’
having real conversations with customers and relevant partnerships.
Like we’re reminded by Bailey Richardson,
Kevin Huynh & Kai Elmer Sotto in “Turn Your Customers into Your
Community” – the likes of Lego & TEDx were able to turn their
customers and learn how to build by with real feedback from their
community. They were willing to trust
Without involving your customer in the
process, you are essentially guessing what to do.
strategic or operational, living breathing plans require alignment and a direct
anchor to your customer.
What are ‘living & breathing’ strategic plans?
As Richard Rumelt states in Good Strategy/Bad
Strategy “Leaders may create bad strategy by mistakenly treating strategy
work as an exercise in goal setting rather than problem solving”
The ultimate purpose of planning is to effectively organise your resources so that
they are used most effectively. To ultimately achieve the desired outcomes.
traditional planning approach can be categorised as top down. This is understandable as executive & managers want to ensure alignment of everyone in the organisation. Our
experience shows that this approach does not yield the desired results.
strategic plan to actually work, it needs to be living, breathing, &
dynamic – albeit stable. Formed in a
truly collaborative manner. Real
strategic plans are relevant, understood and owned by everyone. We mean everyone.
plans are not a document that sits on someone’s desk only seen by the favoured
few. Or worse, in a drawer gathering
plans have as much to do with collective personal commitment and convictions as
they do with the cognitive content.
So where to start?
The strategic planning process involves each
level in the organisation. Not just the
executive or management team.
Start by having real targeted conversations
with customers, staff, suppliers, partners, and relevant people in your
Things will come out of these conversations
that you never thought of. Problems you
never thought existed or opportunities that you never thought were related to
your organisation. These begin to form
the critical headlines to create real strategy.
The bonus with this approach is that
customers & your community experience that they have been heard and that
Incorporate Human Centred Design into the
process. Define your key customer
personas and go through a process of ’empathy mapping’ for each. This can be a short/sharp process, not drawn
out becoming an academic exercise. This
will help surface the real customer problems you are actually trying to
solve. Not just the big ideas that come
Then draft up Customer Journey Maps to
reflect real customer experiences. This
will result in new strategy tied directly to real customer growth.
If you already have a business plan or
strategic plan, the work you have done hasn’t be wasted. Any of these approaches can be revisited to
bring the plan to life.
In the words of New York Times bestseller
Richard Rumelt “Strategy isn’t just goals.
Strategy must have a point of leverage”.
Once you have a solid understanding of the
problems you are trying to solve, you can start to flesh out your strategy with
the holistic team.
For real life examples where we have applied this approach with significant outcomes or to learn more, get in contact here.