It’s about that time of year when directors and senior management start to spend an ever-increasing amount of their time on strategy development and business planning.

It’s not that these things aren’t on the agenda throughout the year of course, but in Q4 there is inevitably a focus on the coming calendar year and what the plans and targets are going to be.

And  don’t we make it complicated. Board discussions, strategy and planning meetings, working groups, and other project teams are formed across various areas of the business. Despite the best of intentions, strategy season tends to grow arms and legs and it’s not unusual for to be being finalised weeks if not months into the time period within which it is supposed to be delivering results.

If you’re in the early stages of that cycle at the moment then take a moment to sense check your progress against the 5 key success factors we think a strategy needs if it is to succeed.

1) Keep it simple

A good strategy is inclusive for everyone it is relevant to. If your strategy isn’t simple enough to be communicated to, and explained by, everyone in your organisation then it’s highly unlikely it will succeed.

2) Focus on the why, not the what and how

Don’t stray into the detail. Strategy isn’t an implementation plan, it’s an ethos and a vision, a raison d’etre. It’s about giving your organisation a clear steer on objectives and goals, and defining what success looks like.

As Stuart Cross points out in his excellent CEO’s Strategy Handbook, a plan can fall out of a strategy, but a strategy can never fall out of a plan.

4) Look forwards, not backwards

It’s a tough mindset to embed, but don’t dwell on your heritage or past results. These things have never been less valuable than they are today. Past experience has a value but it’s trumped every time by a current proposition that is truly engaging and relevant to the market.

4) Engage your workforce

When your employees go to the pub with their friends on a Friday evening and get asked what your organisation does, will they find it easy to know the answer and will it be the one you’d like them to give? That needs to be your goal, and it won’t happen unless you invest time, energy and money in engaging with them in a way that they can relate to. Successful employee engagement happens on their terms, not yours.

5) Lead by example

All directors have to talk the talk, but if you don’t also walk the walk then how can you expect to energise your employees to follow you? Constantly remind people of the strategy, drive the pace of change, celebrate success on any level when you see it, make brave decisions, and challenge your people to align their everyday thinking with your strategic goals.

This all sounds simple and obvious doesn’t it? Of course it does. It’s common sense and you’ve heard all these things before in some shape or form. But take a step back and ask yourself whether you’re really putting these things into practice as you approach your 2014 plans.

Sometimes no matter how experienced or successful we are, we forget the simple things. Don’t fall into that trap – apply these 5 simple points today and you’ll reap the benefits sooner rather than later.


If you are considering your strategy at present, why not complete our free Strategy Survey and get an instant summary of your business’ situation – click here.