5 Ways We Do Strategy Differently

How do you build and execute strategy successfully in the context of how we work today?  I think that’s a big question for any company – large or small – because the landscape is changing so quickly.

Traditionally, strategy was built by a relatively small number of senior executives and then cascaded down through the ranks to be executed.  Roles were clear.  Executives developed and monitored. Middle managers made sure work was aligned. Everyone else executed.

In this approach, those senior executives had the best vantage point to know what the strategy should be.  Markets and competition were relatively stable. The executives had often spent years in the industry and often grew up in the firm.

Fast forward to markets that change rapidly, competitors who enter quickly and at times disruptively, and organizations where few people spend their entire career.  The traditional strategy development model doesn’t work.

In our opinion, there needs to be a very different approach. Here are five ways we need to approach strategy development and execution differently:

  • Strategy development needs to involve more than just the most senior executives. Strategy is becoming more fluid and iterative. There is information, data, and people throughout the organization that need to be included. Leaders at highest levels of the organization with years of experience don’t have enough expertise because what created today’s success may or may not create tomorrow’s.
  • Mid-level roles – whether it be mid-level leaders or high-expertise individual contributors – need to be redefined. These roles are no longer just about executing strategy but about shaping and influencing it. They have information and perspective that the organization needs to compete.
  • Strategic-thinking needs to be a capability that is viewed as necessary at all levels in the organization. The behaviors will look different but it can’t only be valued and assessed at the most senior levels.
  • Communication and alignment around the strategy need to be continual. Agility in an organization allows people to be proactive when opportunities arise. Alignment ensures that resources are put behind the right opportunities. Discussions about strategy and opportunities needs to be part of the ongoing conversation at all levels in the organization.
  • Risk needs to be part of the plan. Organizations cannot seek perfection at the expense of good. Failure will occur as new opportunities are pursued. For many organizations, this is a real culture shift and one that will need to be approached intentionally and purposefully.

The benefits of rethinking strategy in this way?  Increased speed and innovation. A more responsive organization. Improved execution. Higher engagement levels. However, getting there won’t happen overnight. You need a plan.

We’ve worked for over 20 years helping organizations clarify and execute their strategy. We also know how to help you thrive during change. How can we help you?

What are You Talking About with Your Team?

Strategy2Strategy: noun,  a plan, method or series of maneuvers for obtaining a specific goal or result or a particular long-term plan for success.

One of the laments of managers is that their people aren’t strategic enough.  They want strategic thinkers. They want the group to be viewed as strategic advisors.  They ask people to develop strategies for achieving certain outcomes. Usually, what they are getting is tactics.

When I speak with managers about this dilemma, I often ask them how they spend their time with their people.  The response is usually that they talk about what the person is doing, specific issues related to a specific task, the plan for this week or next.  Rarely do I hear them say they are talking about strategy.

To develop strategic thinkers you have to talk about strategy.  What is strategy about?  It’s about the long term.  It’s about putting disparate pieces together and seeing the connections.  It’s about understanding how what you do works in the larger context.  It’s about how a result will be achieved and why it is important.

If you want to develop more strategic thinking, demonstrate it in your conversations with your team.  Share industry insights with them.  Talk about how larger company issues impact what they do.  Talk about how what they do impacts larger company issues.  Discuss the implications of what is happening today for long-term success.  Ask them to think about how their approach to a particular issue or problem will impact other steps that are needed to achieve the goal. Ask them to assess the consequences of their actions on near-term and long-term outcomes.

Try this in three meetings this week. And then again the week after and the week after.  Make it a regular part of the conversation.