‘Strategy’ is not that once-a-year event for senior leaders – it’s an infinite rhythm for building your organisation’s future.
If you’re a CEO, Managing Director or Senior Leader, you will have either already completed, or be preparing to run an upcoming strategic planning session. The strategy session typically involves the leadership team stepping back from their day-to-day operational leadership responsibilities, to attend the strategy session (often offsite) that addresses the big strategic questions of the organisation, as well as planning forward over the long-term. In most cases, the desired outcome from any successful strategic planning day is an agreed long-term plan for the organisation, supported by an implementation plan for the next 12-months.
As a strategic planning facilitator & advisor for numerous organisation’s over the years, I have found that some organisations have been far more successful than others in realising the full benefits of a strategic planning approach. These successful organisations have typically had what I call a ‘strategy rhythm’. In other words, I would propose that these successful organisations have been able to truly move away from viewing strategy as that once-a-year event attended by leaders only, towards viewing strategy as being an ongoing ‘strategy rhythm’ for the whole organisation’s participation – much like that of an ‘operating rhythm’. The only difference being that a strategy rhythm is dedicated to ‘building the future’, whilst the operating rhythm is all about ‘delivering BAU today’. A strategy rhythm is demonstrated through a set of sequenced strategy processes, delivered over the duration of the strategy, ensuring that the flow of strategy is; articulated, enabled, monitored and adjusted where required. A ‘strategy rhythm’ can be best summarised under 3 sequential themes; Aspire, Align & Act.
We’ve taken this strategic planning model and simplified it into 3 simple steps.
You can also check out our Strategic Rhythm Assessment template, which you can download and fill in.
The Leadership Team (and often supported by other staff and the Board) must work collaboratively to; debate, evaluate and finalise the big strategic choices that make up the organisation’s future aspirations. Five important ‘Aspire’ considerations include the following:
- Industry Pivots: What are our prioritised opportunities to pursue and risks to mitigate against in our relevant industry/arena?
- Purpose & Vision: Why does our organisation exist, what is its cause or purpose, and what is our 3-year vision and supporting goals?
- Value Ecosystem: How will we ideally create value via our core activities, and supported by what resources, capabilities and external partners? How will we deliver this value via our channels and to which customer groups? How will we collect and share in this value financially and reinvest back into the business? Can we clearly articulate how this value will migrate throughout our value ecosystem?
- Strategic Priorities: What strategic focus areas will we focus on for prioritised resourcing and action over the next 3 years in pursuit of our vision, and in alignment to our purpose?
- Implementation timeline: What strategic initiatives do we wish to ruthlessly prioritise over others for dedicated implementation over the next 12 months?
The Leadership Team (and often supported by other staff and the Board) must work collaboratively to ensure that the strategy aspirations are supported with processes that will ensure the strategic alignment of the leadership team and staff across the organisation. Five important ‘Align’ considerations include the following:
- Strategy roles and responsibilities: Who are the ‘strategic initiative’ leads and supporting teams that will be aligned for delivery of agreed strategic initiatives?
- The StratEx budget approved: What critical budgeting actions and timing must be met in order to align the prioritised strategic initiatives with the annual budgeting process? What needs to be done to confirm the approved StratEx budget (i.e. the strategy execution
- Strategy Reporting: What strategy reporting templates and strategic planning tools will be used by the leadership team and strategic initiative teams to create visibility on the progress and performance of strategic initiatives?
- Strategy Review Meetings: Who will attend the strategy review meetings, how often will we hold them, and how does the timing of these meetings fit in with our annual calendar of other scheduled meetings and leadership responsibilities?
- ‘Strategy Communication’ plan & narrative: What is our multi-channel communication plan for rolling out the key strategic messages to all staff across the organisation? As senior leaders are we ready to communicate an aligned and compelling strategic narrative?
The leadership team and strategic initiative leaders must work together to mobilise strategic initiative teams, ensuring that the flow of strategy is; enabled, monitored and adjusted where required. Five important ‘Act’ considerations include the following:
- Accountable & supported teams: Are the leadership team and strategic initiative leaders clear on the expectations to set within teams for the importance of delivering these new mandatory projects, whilst also making sure that teams are supported and have the adequate resources and capabilities?
- 90-Day execution plans: Have the strategic initiative teams democratically devised 1-3 big goals (particularly ‘lead’ indicators) and a clear execution plan for each quarter, connecting the big-picture strategy with shorter-term project delivery? Are the teams clear on what must be prioritised for action, as well as what to say ‘no’ to?
- Harvesting outputs & learnings: Have the strategic initiative teams looked to; embed the outputs or benefits realised from the strategic initiative activities into business-as-usual (BAU) when possible, as well as create opportunities for organisational learning from failures (‘flearnings’) or setbacks experienced along the way?
- The feedback loop: Have the strategic initiative teams assisted the strategic initiative leads on a quarterly basis with reporting on the progress and learning’s experienced during the quarter? Has the reporting on all strategic initiatives been compiled and shared at the Leadership Team strategy review meeting, allowing the Leadership Team to make strategic pivots or adjustments where required?
- Strategy celebrations: Have the leadership team and strategic initiative leaders found ways to acknowledge and celebrate; the efforts and progress made, the learning’s derived and the benefits from the various strategy execution activities? An engaged and rewarded team will be more committed to the long-term delivery of strategic initiatives if they are recognised and celebrated!
In reviewing your organisation’s strategy rhythm, it is incredibly important to acknowledge that each organisation will have a unique set of strengths and gaps. The ‘strategy rhythm’ assessment below has been designed for the purpose of heightening awareness around these particular strengths and gaps. In doing so, the approach and investment that a leadership team makes in realising the benefits of a strategy process can then be optimised. See how your organisation ‘stacks up’ by downloading & completing the template. If you are still unsure about your company’s strategic rhythm or looking for some assistance, get in touch with an Expert who can help get you moving in the right direction.