Strategy might be one of the most used and abused words in business, but as a process, it’s vital for business performance and something good managers and leaders should consider constantly.
Strategy not only helps determine future ambitions; it also encourages leaders to address foreseeable problems and opportunities, and helps prioritise investment choices and informs day-to-day tactical activities.
Having a coherent strategy provides clarity for all stakeholders, and makes a business more likely to succeed. But ‘strategy’ is a word that is often misunderstood. By its nature, strategy needs to be determined by senior leadership, which can sometimes exclude middle managers and below, so it can be seen as exclusive and theoretical.
Managers are asked to interpret the strategy when making day-to-day decisions, so if they do not understand, or potentially disagree, with the strategy this can lead to problems – they might become cynical about the strategy and intentionally, or unintentionally, negatively influence others.
Furthermore, the temptation to label what are essentially tactics as ‘strategic’ gives strategy a bad name. So when things don’t go to plan at an operational level, it’s easy to blame the company’s strategy for poor performance or negative outcome
Restoring Strategy’s Good Name
You could argue organisation-wide acceptance of a business’ strategy is as much to do with the people contributing and shaping the strategy and the communication of it, as the content itself.
Of course, the leadership team are collectively responsible for forming the strategy and engaging with all stakeholders to inform the company intent and to provide the foundation for execution. .
It is often said that ‘execution beats strategy any day’, and to a great extent this is correct. But execution and implementation can only succeed, efficiently, if the company ambitions, choices and priorities are clear.
Senior leaders must be able to effectively translate the strategy into regular and manageable digests for those charged with carrying it out. According to the CIPD, feeling well-informed about what is happening in the organisation is consistently shown to be among the most important drivers of employee engagement, which in turn, promotes better performance, employee retention and well-being.
Strategies also need to have longevity and flexibility. It’s a balancing act between sticking to a pre-defined course and responding to changes in internal and external factors that impact the business. As a result, regular reviews and sense-checking planning often benefits from an independent, external perspective, which is able to navigate tensions between immediate challenges and issues and longer-term ambitions.
Keeping Strategy Alive
In the companies we work with, the corporate, business, brand and marketing strategies are not reviewed daily. However, the outputs and actions are being implemented daily across these organisations. We work with clients to sense-check the ongoing performance and relevance of the strategy, asking challenging questions to test the validity of assumptions and help the leadership team focus on growth.
Whether you have a specific need for our services or would simply like to discuss our approach in more detail, please get in touch.