10 Steps to Creating a Focused Effective Strategy

A well-defined Strategic Plan sets you on a focused course to demonstrate and increase value. An effective strategic planning process results in a thorough understanding of the organization, the value it brings to the constituents it serves and what leaders most need to focus on.

Does your Strategic Planning Process have all these factors?

1. Utilizes your organization’s Vision, Mission and Values as its foundation.

Doing so helps you to stay true to what’s most important for your organization today and into the future. This may require reviewing, revising or even establishing your organization’s Vision, Mission or Values.

2. Provides focused direction while also being nimble.

Your Strategic Plan must be focused on what’s most important in order to align resources and avoid distraction from the noise. At the same time, you must keep your finger on the pulse and remain nimble enough to shift course if needed.

3. Articulates a strong value proposition.

A value proposition is simply what your organization does better or differently than others and how you will grow and measure this value. What makes you unique? Why should customers come to you? Going through this activity can wake up leaders to the need to up their game or just to be able to get the word out.

4. Ensures alignment of all leaders.

Do you really know what your leaders think are the most important goals or are they giving you lip service in meetings while working on their own side projects? Find out where there is agreement or disagreement early on before friction slows or stops your progress.

5. Has the confidence of leaders and teams.

Understand early on where your leaders have little faith that a particular initiative will succeed. Have them talk to their teams and really listen to the views of those closest to the work. Avoid the desire to simply quiet the naysayers or they may arise later in destructive ways. Raise concerns and address them. They may help you to mitigate risk or identify what needs to be in your change leadership strategy. (Yes, you need one of these.)

6. Builds on leadership and organizational strengths and fills the gaps.

There are instruments that can help you easily assess where your leadership team capabilities match the type of work that needs to be done in your strategic priorities. Find out where the strengths are and where you can stretch people. Rather than force-fitting leaders into roles where they will fail, figure out alternative ways to fill the gaps. Perhaps a next level leader can step up and have a development opportunity. You may need to hire for specific roles such as leading the Data and Analytics initiatives. Or you may need short-term external support or expertise to get started.

7. Teaches you throughout the process.

A strong strategic planning process builds the experience, knowledge and capabilities of the leadership team and Board as they participate in the process. Every strategic planning process I facilitate serves as a learning experience for the leaders of the organization. They face tough questions, question the status quo, interview their clients and engage their people. They end up with a strong Strategic Plan and stronger leaders.

8. Provides positive results while still in the planning process.

A well-designed planning process includes interviewing key customers and influencers to learn about their needs, views of your organization and what’s happening in the external environment. Engaging your people influences your culture, brings you new ideas and starts to bring them on board for change. Leaders will often take action to strengthen a customer relationship, solve a problem or shift people while the plan is still being inked.

9. Is reinforced and achieved through your culture.

Your new strategy may require significant change in your culture. Does it call for greater service, innovation, quality or collaboration? Aligning your culture will be one of the biggest challenges you will have in achieving your strategy. LET ME REPEAT THAT. Aligning your culture will be one of the biggest challenges you will have in achieving your strategy. Assess your cultural strengths early on and include strategies to shift and align your culture in your Strategic Plan and your Implementation plans.

10. Has execution top of mind.

A strategy’s brilliance must come to life through effective execution. Consider not only how you will achieve your goals, but also how you will build organizational capacity in the process. How can you strengthen leaders, shape culture, engage your people, bring the right talent on board, and build high-performing teams that can continue to contribute?

Contact us to learn how we can help you to create or implement your strategic plan and to ensure you have the leadership team and alignment you truly need to execute effectively.

Top 10 Lessons in Leading Change

Mergers, acquisitions, re-engineering, restructuring, new leaders, new strategies, systems upgrades, process improvements, staff reductions.  The one thing all these events have in common is a need to have a strategy for leading and sustaining change.  Change doesn’t happen because a group of leaders came up with a brilliant idea or because the charismatic CEO gave a visionary presentation at the Town Hall Meeting.   Here are ten key lessons to incorporate in your change strategy:

“60-75 percent of all restructuring failed — not because of strategy, but because of the “human dimension.”

Michael Hammer, author of Reengineering the Corporation

Lesson 1 – Understand the importance of people in every change initiative.

It doesn’t matter how successful the acquiring organization is, or how great the strategy – you need people to execute the strategy and to achieve success.  People must trust leadership, share the organization’s vision, and be included in planning in order buy into the change.  Since every person is wired differently, the approaches to engage them must also vary.  Organizations that use assessments to understand each individual’s preferred work behaviors and motivating needs can leverage this data to figure out who might jump on board as a catalyst for change and who might need more data, time to reflect or an emotional connection in order to get on the bus. 

Lesson 2:  Transformation is a mental, physical and emotional process; not an event.

Large-scale change has a tremendous emotional impact on all involved.  Transformation is not the same as incremental change.  It redefines what we do, how we do it and who we are as an organization.  It’s often unpredictable, fast-paced, and sometimes defies logic.  What worked in the past may not in the future.  Do not underestimate the depth and variety of emotions that people will have, and how this impacts the success of the transition as well as the impact on the culture. Handled correctly, people can be helped through the change process, which may start with denial and negative emotions and gradually move through acceptance to commitment.  Leaders must encourage people to move from one stage to the next – or risk losing talent and the success of the initiative. 

Lesson 3:  Leverage the talent and potential of people.

Prescribing to people what they should do differently usually prompts resistance.  Involving people in creating the future of their organization – their future – tends to evoke a spirit of cooperation and contribution.  People want opportunities to use their gifts and talents, their creativity and their ideas.  Within all people and organizations there is a positive core – a source of positive potential that is brought to life when recognized and stirred up. Demonstrate confidence in and commitment to employees. Turn the traditional hierarchy around; have employees tell management what they believe excellence looks like. Involving others and building on the strengths of people liberates the energy, enthusiasm and engagement throughout the organization.  Provide a forum for all to engage in designing the future.

Lesson 4:  Do an Impact Analysis:  How will the change affect each stakeholder?

Not everyone deals with change in the same way or at the same pace.  Consider all stakeholders, the impact on each and how to deal with it.  Some people are more resilient and adaptable.  Find these “change agents” early on and leverage them to help others get on board.  People who are resilient and adaptable are more satisfied at work since they have accepted the fact that the world will change.  Those who not only accept change, but are energized by it, can be assets. These individuals generally possess qualities such as self-confidence, coping skills, optimism, innovation, and perseverance.   

Lesson 5:  Communication comes from all directions and channels.

Formal communication is only a small part of the messages received by people.  Actions speak louder than words.  People will draw conclusions based on changes in the organizational structure or processes, actions of leaders, decisions that are being made, and behavior that is being rewarded.  The communication strategy must be aligned with the actions of leaders and the structures and systems in place.  What people hear and what they see will speak volumes more than the formal messages.

Lesson 6:  Be truthful and candid in communicating with others.

People will know if they are being fed information that has been “sugar-coated” or is veiled in corporate-speak.  Even if the intent is to protect others, being less than honest will destroy trust. People today want and deserve open and honest communication. While some people won’t be happy with the message, you face a greater risk by being less than honest.  Be up front and proactive in sharing information about challenges, risks, mistakes, failures, opportunities and what you don’t know yet. 

Lesson 7:  Help people to understand the rationale for change.

People need to understand the reason for the change and what the organization is trying to accomplish.  Share the strategy and spell out their role in achieving the goals of the change initiative.  Educate others by providing information about the business environment – economic, competitive, demographic and technological factors as well as industry trends and the financial realities of the business.  This is also true on a departmental level – explain why systems and processed need to change or why locations are being consolidated or job descriptions are changing.  And, once again, remember to involve people in the change.

Lesson 8:  Show the link between individual efforts and the goal.

One of the most effective methods to engage people is to show how their individual efforts and achievements help the organization to be successful and meet its goals.  People should be involved in setting their own goals in a way that links to those of the department and the organization.  They may come up with ideas that add value to those that might be developed by their managers alone.

Lesson 9:  Include others as much as you can – and value their input.

People feel a loss of control during change.  They can also feel unimportant and disrespected if they are not included in the change.  Remember that those closest to the work and the customers know things that management often doesn’t.  Plus, including others helps them to own the changes that will take place.  If it’s their idea, they are more likely to get on board and encourage others to do the same.  If most of the ideas come from management or the acquiring organization, resistance will surely rear its ugly head – even if the ideas are good ones.

Lesson 10:  Negotiate a new “compact” with employees.

Just as in any relationship, people need to understand what is expected of them and what they can expect in exchange.  The interests of both sides need to be considered; the relationship must be built on mutual trust and respect.  All parties have a responsibility toward the success of the business, as well as a right to share in the rewards of that success. Employees expect to be treated fairly and respectfully, compensated appropriately and to have opportunities to develop and have meaningful, challenging work.  The organization expects employees to be committed, to treat their customers well, to meet their goals and to be professional in dealing with others.  The best relationships come when both sides are working toward mutual benefit and areas that are valued by all.

At Strategic Imperatives we understand the human and organizational influences on change, how these can derail your initiative or how they can fuel it for success.  We use solid, research-backed methods combined with people data and decades of experience to help our clients successfully navigate change. Contact us to learn more.