It is critical to have a clear view of a future vision, but also flexibility and adaptability as the environment is constantly changing and challenging.

As a business leader facing the daily challenges of generating revenue and profit, securing new customers, launching new initiatives and leading the team, it’s understandable that you, or the senior management team, may feel there is little time to spend on developing strategic plans for the future.

Perhaps you’ve already taken time to develop a mission statement, strategy and vision for the company. But what good are those if they sit neglected and forgotten on the company website or in a dusty folder, detached from what the senior management team and your people are focusing on every day?

There are many reasons why strategy can go ‘wrong’. Strategy development may be weak / unclear, there may be poor vision or milestone setting, unrealistic aims and expectations, a lack of clearly defined responsibilities, or poor prioritisation and decision making.

A common reason why strategy fails is poor communication, both in terms of engaging with your people and making sure they are clear on the key question of ‘what’s in it for me’? Without this people may not be willing to take risks and friction can develop internally between functions.

Time spent planning, developing and communicating future strategies shouldn’t be seen as dislocated from the day-to-day issues. Longer-term aims should be an integral element of daily leadership and management: shaping business operations, short-term priorities, choices and decisions.

This ensures an effective and practical balance between short-term commercial aims and longer-term strategic objectives, and that your business pursues a clear strategic direction and purpose.

The trick, of course, is to get the balance right, and to ensure that your strategic aims and sustainable growth strategies are not forgotten among the daily and weekly pressures.

Case study : Google

Google’s vision is to help the world organise its data better, but there are a lot of companies purporting to do this, so to stay ahead they need to constantly redefine the boundaries of what is possible and acceptable. They need to innovate.

Google recognises that to benefit from innovation they need to give their employees the space to come up with ideas outside of their regular work. Google is famous for its massage chairs, relaxation areas, pool tables and anything else you could wish for in an office that to the outsider could be viewed as work-prevention tactics.

On the same theme, it also monitors lunch queues… to make sure they are not too short. That seems counter-intuitive, but the rationale is to make sure people talk to each other. It also only provides big tables, which means employees sit with other people and not just their friends.

Set in isolation these staff perks might appear to be of small consequence, but they’re representative of Google’s culture and its understanding that innovation can achieve its corporate objectives.

It’s a powerful example of how staying true to your strategy across all business disciplines can ensure your vision shapes your organisation’s day to day actions.

6 questions to ask yourself:

  • Is there a strong link between your company strategy and your major investment decisions?
  • Is there a strong link between your annual business plan and the functional priorities and KPIs?
  • Are you confident that the organisation is focused on achieving the company aims and ambitions?
  • Does your business have the resources and skills to successfully deliver the company strategy?
  • Are you confident of your company’s ability to achieve the company aims and ambitions?
  • What are the key factors that would help or prevent the successful execution of your company strategy?

These questions are mirrored within our Strategy Survey, a free tool also available on our website.

This blog is the third in a set of four in Whitecap’s Strategy Series, published in November/December 2013.