Is your transformation strategy really a strategy?

If you don’t define the strategy after planning and executing, you will likely end up elsewhere if 95% of employees don’t know where you want to go.

Business strategy is traditionally designed and presented by senior executives as part of the law. The ubiquitous five-year plan worked well, especially when the pace of change was slower, when it was easier for companies to cope with competition, and when disruptions didn’t really matter.

It doesn’t work today.

Not only is the change constant, but the business turmoil is an ongoing transformation. If the strategy was a map where an ‘X’ indicated the location, it should now be like Waze and recalculate along the way to avoid problems. Markets change, competitors emerge, new technologies are added almost every day and the strategy has to take everything into account. Fast.

The lack of a well-defined and well-communicated strategy is one of the most common reasons for the failure of digital or other transformations. The result is inconsistent leadership, conflicting goals and initiatives, resistance to change, and a lack of resources to implement and sustain change.

In an MIT Sloan School of Management survey of 11,000 senior executives, only about a third were able to correctly identify the three key business priorities suggested by the CEO. And a Harvard Business School survey found that 95% of the company’s employees don’t know or understand the strategy.

It’s no wonder, then, that the survey consistently lists the business transformation success rate at less than 30%. The recent Boston Consulting Group survey is the most recent and states that approximately 70% of digital transformations are not fully completed and that clear goal and business results are the main drivers of success.

There are many structures for strategic planning, but they are usually variations on a theme: a cycle of discovery, definition, action planning, and execution. It should be a repetitive exercise, similar to software development, and it should be regularly reviewed to properly assess and monitor it.

Why is the strategy MIA?

The short-term quarterly response makes it difficult to focus on long-term goals, even annual ones. Some companies see strategy as an obstacle. Others think it is only for large companies. Smaller companies think they know enough about their business and the market without planning.

It’s also common for companies to think they have a strategy because it is actually a goal (increase sales by 50%) or a series of actions (implement a new CRM or downsize staff to improve the core).

Simply put, strategy is the company’s formula for winning. Determine why we choose the customers we serve, the products and services we offer, the value they provide, and why we are a better choice than our competitors. It also recognizes what we choose NOT to do, the things that can divert attention and resources.

As I said, strategy starts with discovery: a deep dive into your business and its environment. Since you cannot effectively change what you do not understand, discovery is crucial.

Get in touch with your mission, vision, and values. The strategy must be based on why the organization exists, what it believes in and the stories it tells. A mobile infrastructure company I worked with wanted to use the industry experience to launch a mobile marketing service, but it didn’t have the entrepreneurial culture and skills to make it happen. Some people find the mission and vision too “weak”, but if the strategy is the roadmap, it helps to make sure you do it the right way.

Dive into the data: sales, manufacturing, finance, etc. One of my clients, with separate local and national sales teams, discovered the effort invested in thousands of small clients; A unified sales organization for better allocation of resources across the enterprise, coupled with a low-cost, self-service model, can help salespeople grow high-potential customers.

Don’t limit yourself to ‘hard’ data. It is amazing what you can learn from conversations. As well as senior executives, interviewers, frontline workers, clients and companies you do business with. What about our company, which you are most proud of? What works well? What could be better? What do you see competitors doing? If the goal is to better serve customers (which it certainly should be), learning more about their needs and how they work with you is invaluable.

Make one more attempt from top to bottom. Dexterity requires a free flow of information and training for employees closest to customers, products, and the market. Involve line managers and front-end employees with senior managers. Some ‘whole system’ approaches also involve customers and business partners, generating a surprising amount of valuable information. Employee engagement across the company also improves performance as they will invest more in the success of the plans that helped them develop.

SWOT analysis can be a minefield. It’s easy to get stuck with weaknesses and threats. Weaknesses are not necessarily errors; they can indicate opportunities that should NOT be pursued. (I can’t play basketball, so playing professionally is a bad strategy for me.) Threats don’t mean you’re doomed; these are obstacles to navigation. Strengths should be the positive basis for a strategy.

Start by asking questions that lead to the strategy, including (but not limited to):

• Who are our ideal customers? What problem do we solve for them?

• Why are we unique in winning your business over our competitors?

• What specific skills do we need to develop to make the plan a success?

• What needs to be changed in the organization to support the strategy?

• What are the two or three main things it takes for this strategy to work?

• What can go wrong and how can we correct it?

• What do we decide not to do if we follow this strategy?

• How is success and how do we know if we are going in the right direction?

• How can we test our hypotheses and test the concept?

Be as specific as possible and avoid jargon, commercial language, or other vague languages. “Using our world-class operational capabilities” is not acceptable; What is specific about the skills that make the difference and how does this translate into success?

Finally, communicate the strategy in detail to your organization. It will affect everyone, so it is essential that they understand your new purpose and direction and how it will affect your work. If you define a strategy after you plan and implement it, there is a 100% chance that you will go elsewhere if 95% of employees don’t know where you are going.

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