Every now and again – whether because of competitors and competition, an external disruption, an internal change, the new year, or a vast number of other factors – a business will have to adjust its strategy. Undoubtedly, you’ve had to adjust strategy too, at some point over the course of your business. The big question is – did it work? Were you able to successfully implement your new business strategy? If you’ve been through a few strategic changes, perhaps you’ve noticed that some have worked out better than others. Why is that?
Strategy is not Enough
The truth is, you need more than just a strategy. You need to ensure that your organization is set up to be able to deliver against that strategy and to be able to achieve the objectives set out in the strategy. So let’s break that down. How do you assess and then, if needed, set your organization up to deliver against your new strategy?
There are several aspects of the organization that you’ll need to look at. I’ve broken them down below, and provided examples of what you should be looking for. If you find that your organization is not set up in a manner that supports the strategy, start making changes to create that alignment and support. Otherwise, there’s a good chance you’ll find a big gap between your expectations and the outcome.
These are the most important elements of your organization that will provide the support needed to bring your strategy to life.
#1 – Ensure the right people and skills are in place
Sometimes – actually a lot of the time – leaders tend to think that once a strategic plan has been put into place and communicated to the business, everyone will just start doing what they’re meant to be doing with the new strategy in mind. But the truth is, sometimes that new strategy requires people with different (new!) skills, and sometimes even entire teams. So before you build an expectation that your team will be able to achieve the strategic objectives you’ve set out, ask yourself:
- What skills are needed for these objectives to be brought to life?
- Does my team have these skills?
- Do the people who have these skills also have the time to spend on the new activities, or is their time already taken up doing other activities that are also required?
#2 – Provide flexible principles for your team to use when managing new situations or decisions
We all know that you can’t plan for every possible situation or decision that each person in your business will need to make at some point. So instead of trying, it makes a lot more sense, both in terms of your time and in terms of your sanity, to create a set of principles that can guide people within your organization to make the right decisions. For example, if your business is built on great customer service, then making that a clear principle helps frontline staff know to put great customer service above all else when talking with customers. On the other hand, if low cost is what your business is built on, a frontline member of your team may have to make a different decision. Bear in mind, you can’t have it all. Know that there are trade-offs, embrace them, make them known to your team, and provide clear priorities for everyone to follow.
#3 – Take stock of your culture and make changes as needed
Your culture has to support your strategy. It’s an absolute necessity. Think about the activities you’re asking your organization to undertake, and determine the values, behaviors and leadership styles that are necessary for them to be successfully implemented. Are these in place right now, or is your organization currently set up in a completely different manner? For example, if you need your team to be developing more ideas, then you’ll have to create a culture where experimentation (and failure!) is supported – not just passively, but also actively, for example: Do people have the time to create and test new things? Or perhaps your new strategy requires people to work together, but your teams are still very silo’d, and don’t trust each other. Be diligent and ensure that your culture and your strategy align. Even the best strategy won’t amount to much with a culture that doesn’t align to it.
#4 – Make sure the technology and data that is needed for success is available
It is extremely important to make sure that the resources, particularly the technology and data, that a person (or team) needs in order to effectively do their job is available to them. Look through your strategic plan and make sure that you highlight activities that require different technology and data as compared to what is available today. How can you obtain these? In the absence of these, how can your team adjust their activities to still deliver value, albeit not the full value that your future state outlines?
#5 – Re-engineer your processes and activities so they reinforce, support and complement the new strategy
Revisit your processes and activities. These were designed with your old strategy in mind. They supported what your team used to deliver, in ways that made the most of their skills in line with the old strategy. Your old processes may have been perfectly fine for your previous strategy, but that doesn’t mean they’re the right way to do things for your new strategy. Now that you have a new direction that you’d like the business to go in, you’ll need to make sure your processes and your teams’ activities support it. Re-engineer old processes, end-to-end, to make sure that your teams’ time is spent on activities that deliver value, in the most efficient and effective way, for your new strategy.
#6 – Measure the right indicators
When you change your strategic priorities, you absolutely need to review the metrics you and your teams measure, and adjust them so that they continue to bring to light the important measures that you and your team will want to track your success against. Make sure, too, that your metrics don’t clash with one another. Asking a call center team to focus on delivering excellent customer service but then measuring them on reducing their call time isn’t going to produce great results. Go through your metrics, team by team, and make sure they are designed to be supportive of your new strategy.
#7 – Communicate the change at every level
Finally, communicate the change in strategy to the entire organization. You might not need to communicate everything to everyone – it depends on your team size and functions – but it is critically important for everyone to know that a change is taking place, and how they contribute to it. Everyone needs to know and be very clear on how their daily activities need to change in order for them to continue to be an active contributor to the business. Understanding the key principles behind the new strategy also helps people at every level know whether what they are doing is helping or hindering the implementation of the new direction.
Support your strategy with necessary changes
Don’t be scared to change your strategy. Work through the areas outlined above and put the right resources and elements in place. It may not have always gone to plan in the past, but you can give your strategy the best chance of success by setting it up with the support it needs to grow, live and thrive.
Are you working on a new strategy? Which of the elements above do you think could be the largest hurdle for your organization? Post your comments and any questions below, and if you can help anyone else, don’t hesitate to do so! As always, if you’ve found this article useful, share it with someone who’ll benefit from it as well!
Mehdi Hashambhoy says
Insightful as usual, thanks for sharing! Some thoughts to build on this:
I fully agree that changing strategies can be very disruptive and risky, because of the reasons you clearly mention.
To mitigate this risk, it’s important to regularly conduct strategy reviews which are well-governed and frequent (especially nowadays). During these reviews, we need to simply assess what to continue doing, stop doing, and start doing. This should be done against (a) a solid vision/mission foundation, and (b) changing market dynamics (evolving customer needs, competition, new regulations, etc.).
Based on this, once we identify what exactly needs to change, it’s critical to create a clear roadmap/action plan on what’s needed (prerequisites, enablers) to execute in terms of budgets, capabilities, tech, infra, processes, operating model, etc.
Only then, can we venture into making “safer”/more sustainable strategy changes, by taking calculated risks.