“In preparing for battle I’ve always found that plans are useless, but planning is essential.” (Dwight Eisenhower)
I’ve been involved in preparing many different types of business strategy over the last 20 years. When I step back and consider what has produced the most successful outcomes, these tips capture what I’ve found to be most useful.
1. Fresh thinking & visioning
Always ensure that there is some fresh thinking influencing and informing the strategy. Too often strategy is prepared by people who really know the business but fail to take on a fresh perspective. ‘If you think like you always thought, you’ll get what you always got’.
Involve some forward-thinking new blood in the business and give them ‘permission’ to challenge the ways things are done. Invite independent experts to be involved appropriately in the process. Strategic partnerships can also be leveraged in this respect.
Spend some time visioning the future, even if it’s just a small proportion of the total time spent, it’ll be worth it. Imagining the future progression of technology and how it might impact attitudes and behaviours of your customers and how they shop and use your products/services can open up your thinking and be revealing in terms of the market place dynamics and norms in which your business will be operating in the future.
How might the strategic options in the next two years be informed by working back from a picture of 10 years into the future?
2. Data and information provision
Don’t underestimate the time required to source the appropriate data and information to build a solid foundation and insight to inform and underpin strategic options and direction. It’s often overlooked, putting overt pressure on the timeline and impacting the quality of insight and decision making. It’ll likely need additional funding too, so can be wrapped up as part of the investment in the strategic process.
3. Resourcing strategy preparation effectively
I found it to be worthwhile to manage the expectations of stakeholders and all those involved in the strategic process, in terms of their time and the resource required to develop the strategy. An agreed timeline with milestones usually works well. Make sure that appropriate people are involved or have input and ensure that strategic planning activities are funded or can access a budget.
4. Connect with the right people throughout the business
Great ideas and fresh perspectives can come from anywhere in the business. The skill is to spot the right people and involve them at the right point in the process where they can add most value, not necessarily throughout the whole preparation period. I’ve found having people attend specific workshops at specific times, and then invite them to stay connected by contributing thoughts and ideas remotely after the workshop, works well.
5. Input to drive ownership
Take the opportunity to involve those who will be championing the strategy throughout the business, bringing it alive and driving its implementation. This drives ownership and belief. A strategy cannot be great unless there’s strong belief in it throughout the business.
Where are the opportunities to refocus and fine-tune the preparation of your strategies?
Call me for a fresh perspective on your strategy – 01306 400077.