“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people” – Chinese Proverb
One of the most critical ingredients in building a successful organization is to have a clear strategic agenda, which helps the company focus its energies and resources to create competitive advantage and also gives guidance on the number and scope of internal projects and initiatives that must be funded and resourced.
There are two schools of thought as to how to develop your strategic agenda. The most widely supported is to hire one of the top strategy consulting firms who come in and work with you to develop your strategic agenda. They have the time, the manpower, the brains and certainly the experience to help you build a winning strategy and go forward agenda.
While this is the “safest” approach (no one ever got fired for hiring McKinsey), it has several drawbacks. First is the fact that as these companies have grown into global powerhouses the quality of their work and advice has suffered. We all know of at least one CEO who got a “boilerplate” strategy, and some even had the previous client’s name on it.
Okay, let’s say you do get a strategy that was crafted just for you. The next drawback is the cost: normally upwards of a million. Okay, you can afford it and the Board is supportive. The real problem with outside firms helping you develop your strategy is the fact that in most cases they really don’t help, they do the work for you. An army of junior consultants descends upon your organization, gathers information, crunches numbers, holds focus groups, and work long into the night. The result is you may get a good (even great) strategy, but your leadership team, and employees, don’t really “own” it.
What we mean by “ownership” is your team didn’t do the hard thinking, sweat out the details and metrics, nor did they have the debates and arguments that would result in a jointly agreed plan they are all committed to delivering. In most cases the plan was developed by an army of smart MBAs under the guidance of a senior consulting partner and delivered to your management team as an impressive powerpoint presentation along with a stack of binders. I will wager a large amount that very few members of your senior team have read the entire strategy document, front to back! It’s just not theirs! They aren’t viscerally engaged, they aren’t really excited about it, and this is one of the key reasons why good strategies fail to get delivered.
The second school of thought about developing a strategic agenda is to built it yourself: the CEO, the senior team and whoever else in the company has the capability and desire to contribute to building the future of the company.
I can hear the push-back already: “we’ve got a business to run, we don’t have the time, we’ve got a strategic planning department – it’s their job, we’re too close to the issue and need a broader, more global perspective”. The list goes on and on.
We take the opposite view: who knows the company, it’s capabilities, it’s strengths, it’s weaknesses, its customers better than the leadership team and employees? And when the senior team and others take the time to have the debates, present and defend new initiatives, align around Breakthrough Objectives, a curious thing happens. They “own” the plan. They created it. They understand it. It is theirs! And commitment is what you don’t get when the plan is built by outsiders.
Okay, you might be saying, but where do we start? And how do we do it efficiently?
For the past several years we have been working with our clients to develop a Strategy Development and Delivery process, with integrated templates and delivery software that helps the senior leadership team build, validate and implement a robust strategic Go Forward Plan that has a high probability of being effectively delivered. And believe it or not, those involved like the process, because they learn about the company, about each other, and about themselves. And they come up with outstanding strategic plans.
There is no strategy without execution, and there is no execution without commitment!
Tight Lines . . .