We’ve got the strategy, now what?

Moving from your new or refreshed strategy to seeing the business actually performing as you planned, is exciting, but it can also be daunting. It might be ‘bet your business’ time. If it is, then it needs driving with confidence, from the top. 


As you start the journey there are many things that need to be done, but we believe there are a few things that if done well, will give everyone this confidence. The strategy may have taken some time to formulate and even longer to agree. The desire to get started on tangible delivery is very understandable. 


We believe in pace, but pace that is based on first achieving an appropriate degree of clarity. Getting this clarity helps to set the transformation journey up for success. Without this, any early progress that is made may be short- lived. The excitement created by the agreed strategy can lead executive teams to want to move quickly into the delivery of the required business solutions. 



Our experience suggests there are four things


We know what three of them are. The fourth is down to you.


Consider the four areas below and ask yourself whether they are as clear as they need to be:


  1. What is the story that will inspire everyone to make the journey? 
  2. How will the business work in the future? 
  3. What is the journey to get there? 
  4. Finally, for us, what do we really have to nail to make sure we succeed? 


What is certainly clear is that when you really understand the answers to these questions, you are much more likely to succeed. 



What is the story that will inspire everyone to make the journey?


The power of storytelling as a business tool is increasingly understood by business leaders. At its best, storytelling is done at all levels, with startling consistency and honesty, and repeated often. At its worst, it is done poorly, by people who don’t inspire, with inconsistent messages and a glossing over of the difficult questions. Remember that Martin Luther King Junior never said “I have a plan”. 


Getting your story clear and compelling brings your business leaders together in a way that the development of the strategy may not have done. Communicating that story consistently, honestly and regularly requires a degree of commitment that many business leaders step back from. You should challenge this hard if it starts to happen. 


In several organisations we have seen some fantastic early communication, but for it to then fade away and increasingly be seen as unnecessary. Organisations that succeed know this is wrong and work very hard to keep ‘telling the story’. It’s not just your people that need to hear the story. Shareholders, regulators, partners, suppliers and customers may all need to hear the same or a consistent story. Very few strategic changes avoid impacting these and many other groups of people. 



How will the business work in the future?


Transformational change means rethinking and reshaping the business whilst continuing to run it day to day.  A bit like changing the parts on a racing car without coming in to the pits!  An “appropriate” level of clarity is therefore essential on how the business will operate, not just when the transformation is complete, but at each point during the change. 


Done well, this will give the clarity to progress at pace.  Clarity first, pace second! 


The organisations that do this well keep everything as simple as possible. It is all too easy to end up with an army of people producing large, impenetrable presentations and spreadsheets. 


It doesn’t have to be like this if you remember that what you are doing here is answering three questions. 


  • How will your business be organised? Typically, this would look at the changes needed to the business functions, shared or central service functions, operational locations and partners or suppliers
  • How will it work? This brings clarity to such things as the key end-to-end processes, staffing and service levels, systems and tools
  • How will you manage and control it? Finally, the way that the business will be governed, the reporting needed and the appropriate policies and accountabilities. 



Our experience of answering these questions suggests that you might usefully bear the following points in mind. 


Keep it all fit for purpose. Avoid over-complicating things; be very clear on the scope, content and level of detail needed and where possible, always build on information and knowledge that is already there. 


Build it the right way. Use the right people in the business, the people who understand today and will have to work with it tomorrow, but use experienced people to lead the work, people.



What is the journey to get there?


Understanding the journey, and then navigating the organisation through it, is much easier if you focus on a small number of plans, each with a clear purpose and kept as simple as possible. Getting this focus and keeping it, will substantially increase the chances that your strategy will be successful and deliver results that are sustainable. 


Done well, these plans give a solid base for the journey, from agreeing the strategy to seeing that strategy come to life and delivering the business performance you set out to achieve. 



What do we really have to nail to make sure we succeed? 


At the start of this article we suggested that there were four things that you might want to focus on. 


Our experience suggests that there are three that are always important, but that there is one more that is really unique to you and the changes you are making. 


We can’t help you with this one, except to encourage you to think carefully about it. 



Ask yourself the question – “Why might we fail?” 


The situations below are all ones that we have seen recently. Each was unique to a specific transformational or business-critical change and each was known from the outset or perhaps, discovered on-route: 


  • A retail organisation undergoing a massive level of change knew that they would fail unless they freed up key individuals so they had the capacity to keep the business running and also, lead the change. They increased delegation, reduced reporting and governance. It worked
  • An organisation that had made evolutionary change very successfully in the past, when faced with a significantly larger amount of more complex change, knew they needed to improve their capability to deliver change
  • They also knew that they could not recruit or retain all of the people they would need to deliver the changes. They built a supply strategy that aligned their own capability with that of a small number of key suppliers. They got the balance broadly right and their transformation delivered what was needed. 


The above are just examples of things that for some organisations, separated success from failure. Spending a little time at the start asking yourself that simple question – why might we fail? It’s always useful. 

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