Recently I was attending a corporate event and got into a conversation with one of the other participants. He was there to get new ideas on how to further develop his business: after a period of strong growth, the challenge for his company was how to sustain this expansion and keep growing going forward.
He needed to develop a strategy and was looking for assistance, as he found strategy writing rather challenging. My feedback to him was 3-fold:
Make sure you have a clear vision of where you want to head to. Unless you know the destination, the trip might be beautiful but without purpose & ultimately disappointing. Clearly define what you want to achieve, that is the most important starting point.
When you have determined your long-term objective(s), you can develop your strategy, define your interim goals, and set your metrics. This, to me at least, is a fairly simple exercise, as it follows a number of logical steps & a what-who-when-why approach: you essentially describe when longer-term actions will be taken, who will be handle these at which point in time, and why these are taken (what the desired outcome is of these actions). You can then distill the value proposition, the financial forecasts & budgets, the organizational structure, the sales & marketing propositions and plans, and the operational requirements & related processes from the results. This can then be neatly placed within the relevant market environment & eco-system (covering business partners & other actors) and positioned within the applicable competitive landscape.
Then comes the hardest and most challenging part: putting the organization to work and successfully executing the strategy. This is where the rubber hits the road: you can write the best strategy, but if you can not get the organization to execute, it has been an effort in futility. Obviously, when you have the wrong strategy developed, execution will not succeed either, but far more companies fail in achieving their objectives by lack of execution than by designing the wrong strategy. This is the time active communication within the organization, close monitoring of the progress and quick & decisive actions by everyone becomes crucial.
From a strategy perspective, the two hardest components to operate a successful business are the creation of a clear & focused vision, and the execution of the strategy. Without the vision, there is simply no business to start with. And without the execution, there is no business, full stop. Developing the strategy on the other hand is not that difficult I find and can almost be considered as an enjoyable brain or mental exercise: if you follow some logical steps and guidelines, starting from the vision, the strategy creation will be a relatively straightforward process.
When I explained it to my fellow-participant in this way, it was clear he hadn’t thought about it in this way. He completely agreed with me, and it also made him aware that the hardest part of the transformation process still lays ahead for his company.
At i2act Canada we specialize in ensuring strategies get built & executed. Our motto is “if you have a vision for your business, we will help you operationalize it”. We offer interim and fractional COO services, that can be quickly integrated into your organization to actively work with your leadership teams to develop and execute the business strategy, on a temporary or part-time basis. I2act Canada also provides management advice on an ad-hoc basis and will provide your teams with actionable advice when developing and/or executing your strategic plans. If you want to learn more about i2act Canada and our services, visit the website or contact Dirk Baerts.