Strategy Development is a Cycle, Not an Event

Part II

Strategy development doesn’t end with the creation of a strategic document. In fact, it is an ongoing cycle. Strategy Development is a Process, Not and Event Part I provides an overview of many of the components of effective strategy development that occur prior to a strategy development retreat. This article focuses on the continuing strategy development cycle beginning with the strategy document.

Developing good strategy requires thinking strategically at every turn and it evolves overtime. Good strategy is dynamic and requires constant observation of the marketplace with a conceptual, imaginative and opportunistic mindset focused on the attainment of future success.

Once a strategy document is developed, the strategy must be fully integrated into operations and an ongoing cycle of review commences. Ultimately, the goal is to have your hand continually on the pulse of the market to ensure market awareness and make strategy adjustments, as appropriate, along the way.

Strategy Document: There is no “one size fits all” strategy document design. However, sound strategy documents contain four critical components: strategic initiatives, strategic context, strategic goals and measurable objectives. I have found that strategic context is often missing from strategic documents. The purpose of strategic context is to zero in on and clearly define what the strategic problem or issue is that the strategic initiative is trying to solve. It is especially important in keeping the organization focused on the real strategic issue over time. I am a proponent of using “strategic issue statements” for this purpose. A strategic issue statement is one sentence that contains two clauses, and highlights the tension between a variable or set of variables and subsequent variable. For example, “people’s expectations for customized knowledge solutions, challenges presented by ever changing technology and a proliferation of information sources, place XYZ Association’s position as the preferred provider of knowledge at risk.” Or, “the realities of the rapidly changing industry and the environment in which it operates, call into question XYZ Association’s brand position as the community of choice for coffee professionals.”

Operations Integration: Strategy must be fully integrated into the operation; this begins with the development of an annual operating plan that builds on the structure of the strategy document. In other words, for each strategic initiative, the annual operating plan should include a section that contains the strategic initiative and strategic goal, as well as the year’s tactics and objectives that will drive the organization toward the achievement of the strategic objectives. Strategy can be further engrained into operations by structuring your regular weekly staff meeting agenda items to track the organization’s strategic initiatives, instead of programs or departments. This agenda methodology also helps create synergy amongst departments, as the organization works as a unit to achieve strategic goals.

Strategy Review: Although a formal review of strategy should be undertaken annually, strategy review itself should be continual. As an executive, in addition to being constantly on the lookout for opportunities to advance the strategy, one should be continually reflecting on the strategy and how it might need to be modified based on unfolding opportunities; in today’s rapidly changing environment, one does not have the luxury to wait three years for the next formal strategy development cycle. In addition, every two to three months, staff should meet for the specific purpose of discussing strategy. Finally, on an annual basis, the board should review the strategy to determine if any changes need to be made to the strategic priorities or metrics.

Board Meeting: Board meeting materials should include a dashboard that communicates progress made on strategic objectives. Engaging in such a process provides the board the information they need for strategy oversight purposes and forces the executive to regularly monitor progress against the strategy and determine if the “right” metrics are being used to measure progress. Likewise, when discussing action items, one of the questions the board should always ask is: how would / does this action align with our strategy?

What techniques do you engage in to continually review and evolve your strategy?

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