Creating a strategic roadmap

Are your leaders pointing in the same direction or wandering in the desert?

Even the word strategy is slightly sexy. Well at least to us. It carries with it a sense of grandiose achievement – if I’m doing strategy I’m no longer a pawn but a chess master. “Doing strategy” makes us feels good.

For many leaders, admitting that they need internal or external help in developing an effective strategy equates to a declaration of incompetence. “Good leaders don’t need help in developing strategy. They have years of knowledge and experience…. Etc etc.”. Or so the theory goes.

And so the leader, having chewed over the last few years financials and reflected on that interesting conversation with a major customer last week, puts together the PowerPoint slides that are going to change the future direction of the organisation. The leader summons their senior team and passionately sets out the vision with an array of tables, graphs, and models. The senior team nod their head, some may even speak out, but it’s clear that the key decisions that will shape the future of the organisation have already been taken.

Unfortunately, having not been involved in the process for defining the strategy, the senior team are dispassionate or even disengaged with it. They know of huge threats or opportunities that the leader has missed, or market intelligence that was not considered in the decision making. At best the frustration leads to sluggish execution. At worst it can lead to significant staff turnover and business decline.

Then the leader announces that the business will expand its product range and go after an array of new markets. The news is exciting for sure. But those in the know recognise that spreading the resources and management time and attention so thinly will make the company too vulnerable to specialist competition.

Even if the strategic decisions made by the leader are fairly sound, there is often insufficient clarity and understanding of the competitive advantage and business priorities to deliver it. In the absence of a distinct roadmap for execution, the senior team begin to interpret it in their own way. Soon, each part of the organisation is pulling in different directions. The business has lost its way.

How to get it right

If you can relate to some or all of the story above, then taking your leadership team through a strategy process may be the answer.

An effective strategy process can ensure that;

  1. The threats, opportunities and views of the whole leadership team are made visible, debated and converted into assumptions that will inform the group decision making
  2. Selective market intelligence is used to inform, support and challenge those assumptions
  3. The leaders use those assumptions to agree on a differentiated strategic position which can offer a real competitive advantage that customers care about
  4. The product and market priorities (and non-priorities) are made crystal clear. Everyone in the organisation should understand where the business is going to focus its resources and management time and attention
  5. There is a common understanding of the capabilities that need to be built, as well as the behaviours that need to change, with a clear roadmap to deliver both
  6. Strategic communication is followed by changes to the individual goals and performance management of employees, so that everyone in the organisation becomes engaged with its execution

Why External Strategy Facilitation can help

Often leaders shy away from involving external support in developing a new strategy for fear of a loss of control. Indeed the traditional approaches to strategy of many of the “top tier” consulting firms involves dumping armies of analysts in your business to produce the right answer for you.

Strategy facilitation is different. It isn’t about telling you the answer to your strategic questions but about taking your leaders on a journey that helps them to make the right decisions for themselves. Besides, how could an external facilitator possibly know more about your business, products and customers than you do?

Instead strategy facilitation involves taking your leadership team through a process that generates powerful alignment and clarity. Having been through the journey of decision making for themselves, the whole leadership team will feel an attachment to its successful execution. This shared understanding and commitment to your strategy can deliver remarkable results.

The role of the strategy facilitator is to ensure that those leaders are being asked the right questions. They are there to ensure that the thinking is made visible, that it is challenged, and that it is rationally assessed. The facilitator will ensure that the leaders are answering all of the strategic questions that must be debated and clarified in order for the business to execute the strategy effectively. Without fear of internal politics or hidden agendas, the strategy facilitator can help the business to make the tough decisions, and create a powerful roadmap for execution.

How aligned, committed and passionate are your senior team today?

Are your leaders pointing in the same direction?

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