Think You Have a Strategic Implementation Problem? Maybe You Really Have a Strategic Clarity Problem!

You have a great strategy (or maybe you don’t). Either way, you are experiencing frustration because the implementation of your vision is like rowing a boat upstream and it isn’t yielding the results you are looking for. You are not alone. Just about every business leader I know shares this concern. While there are many reasons that contribute to this issue, one of the most common is because people don’t understand the strategy. And when they don’t understand it, they don’t work on it. They keep doing what they have always done.  Want to know how to fix it? Read more.

What is a strategy?

First, let’s define what a strategy is. As odd as that sounds, I continually run into organizations that believe a list of projects is a strategic plan. Not! Strategy answers the question of how an organization will win in the market. It is not a list of actions but rather a single overarching concept that guides every decision of the organization. Southwest is a low-cost leader. Apple has historically been a product innovator. These are unique strategies that describe how these organizations win. Like a compass, it navigates the company from today to tomorrow.

What is a growth strategy?

Growth strategy, the kind that enables organizations to double or quadruple in size, is not founded on incremental thinking. If you are asking how your organization can be better, you are engaging in an exercise of incremental improvement—valuable and necessary but not to be confused with strategy. The right question with which to lead strategy development is “What is our potential”? It requires big ideas rooted in market knowledge. It demands letting go of what an organization has always done to embrace the potential of what could be done. It doesn’t start with what is done now but rather defines what is needed. But, defining strategy is not enough.

Strategy must be extremely clear

In order for strategy to take root in an organization and serve as a driver of performance it must be understood by everyone involved in its implementation. Clarity of strategy is as important as the strategy itself. Leaders who share strategy without defining what it looks like in the organization are unintentionally undermining results.

To be clear, leaders must define what specific changes are needed in the organization, what the new priorities will be (and equally important what they will not be), what contributions are needed from each department and person, how success will be measured and where new ideas and solutions are encouraged.

What Strategy is Not

  1. It is not a list of projects.
  2. It is not the outcome of a one-day meeting. That is usually a sign that a list of projects is being created.
  3. It is not a budget, although how the organization spends its money reveals its strategy.
  4. It is not a financial goal.
  5. It is not a strategic plan. While the hope is that the plan has a strategy embedded, that is not always the case. And plans themselves are no guarantee of success if the strategy is not well defined, if priorities aren’t clear and resources aligned. A plan is only a document, not a result.

Test for Strategic Clarity

To determine if your organization has Strategic Clarity, answer the following questions. Score each a 1-5 with a 5 if it always describes your organization and a 1 if it doesn’t describe your organization at all. Max score is a 50. If you get a 45 you are in great shape! Anything below 32 requires a hard look. If you score between 32-45, identify the questions you gave lower scores to, and work on improving those.

  1. Can everyone in the organization easily define the strategy?
  2. When asked to describe our strategy, does everyone in the organization use the same key words or phrases?
  3. Are your organization’s specific capabilities a true source of advantage?
  4. Does your strategy put you ahead of trends?
  5. Is your strategy specific about where and how to compete
  6. Does your strategy rest on proprietary insights?
  7. Is your strategy free from historical bias?
  8. Does your organization have a precise definition of high-priority target customers?
  9. Does your strategy anticipate how technological advances will change the market and is flexible enough to accommodate for that?
  10. Is your strategy long-term in nature?

If you would like to know more, check out the complete GrowthDNA assessment which includes DNA strands of Confidence, Commitment, and Culture in addition to Clarity at www.dnascorecard.com.

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