Here’s a stat for you:
5% of employees are aware of and/or understand their company’s strategy.
Or an even better one:
71% of employees cannot recognise their own company’s strategy from a multiple choice list.
(these stats are from the Harvard Business Review btw)
And I think it’s a problem. A big problem.
When confronted with the question “what is your strategy?”, most CEOs retaliate with a Powerpoint slide deck full of animations, colours and charts - we’ve seen some nice pitch decks like this over the years, but 90% of them don’t define strategy.
And for Agilicist, it’s a difficult subject to broach because these are the people bringing us in to help fix their problems.
They say the best consultants are the ones who’ve made mistakes and wear the battle scars, and we’ve definitely been in the trenches over the years.
One of our biggest learnings has been to speak our truth (in a polite, friendly manner), even when the people signing off our invoices are the ones that need the most help, and often that help is centred around strategy - its diagnosis, its guiding policies, and its implementation.
If you’ve been in an organisation that has a ton of goals and objectives with work being retrofitted back to them, a huge batch of unprioritised tasks rather than a coherent plan, and lots of busy people but little value being delivered, chances are you’ve also seen bad strategy in action.
So what do companies do to fix this prevalent problem?
1. Come up with a diagnosis
A good strategy is one that helps us tackle specific challenges, we need to identify the obstacles that our holding our organisation back from its purpose. What is the strategic issue that requires a strategy? Now of course, to determine this we need a thorough understanding of the business landscape the company is operating in and what’s changing.
2. Create a guiding policy
Strategy should help us focus; it needs to force us to make tough decisions. We can’t tackle everything at once, we need a guiding policy to direct our attention towards the right actions, without defining exactly what needs to be done (outcomes over outputs).
For example, if you want accelerated growth there are a number of options; you could attract new customers for existing products, create new products, move into new geographical markets, cross-sell to existing customers, etc. Your guiding policy would be to select one of these approaches based on research done to understand the problem.
3. Take coherent action
Most strategy consultants stop after the diagnosis and guiding policy have been crafted, but that is a mistake because strategy is not about ideas, concepts and theories, it’s about action. Action shapes what is to be, and having clarity around implementation ultimately embeds the strategy across the organisation rather than being ‘pie in the sky’. Good strategy is actionable and coherent, it outlines a series of coordinated outcomes. that support and reinforce each other.
Strategy is about observing the landscape and how it’s changing, deciding what is truly important and focusing action towards your objective.
If your organisation doesn’t get it, you know who to call. Agilicist