Strategy work is treated by many companies as a formality, spotlighted every few years as a workshop theme and PowerPoint presentation – then quickly forgotten, while business activities carry on in the same old way. But that’s no way to manage a company successfully. Strategy work is the responsibility of the whole organisation and originates from the owner strategy.
Why, then, do so many organisations fail to address strategy work properly and to use it as an important management tool? Is it because strategy continues to be a formality, a brief workshop interlude before operations roll along on the same track as before? Or does it feel too difficult to reset strategy work by rebuilding the foundations? Does the organisation lack a person to head a comprehensive strategy upgrade – even alongside their own job?
Owners set the goals for a strategy-oriented organisation
The strategic intent of a company’s owners defines the company’s vision and its strategic guidelines. When the owners possess a shared view of ownership goals, written into an owner strategy, executive management’s task is to formulate a plan for achieving the objectives set out in the strategy. Of course, situated between the owner strategy and the management team crafting the strategy is the board of directors, which specifies the visions and ownership goals of the owner strategy. After this, the company’s management team is responsible for the progress of strategy work, with support from the board of directors.
A strategy-oriented organisation directs operations effectively towards achievement of the owner strategy because it does not implement the strategy merely through a communications plan. Instead, it takes strategy to be managed at all levels of the organisation, making it an everyday topic of conversation. Impossible? Not at all! But success in this requires a change in orientation and systematic allocation of resources.
Who is responsible for strategy work and its success in your organisation?
In addition to a commitment to strategy, the practical strategy work involved in the strategy process needs an officer in charge of it if it is to succeed. This person’s task is to ensure good progress of the strategy process, from setting goals right through to formalising and implementing the strategy, as well as continuously developing it. The CEO and management team have overall responsibility, but the allocation of resources should nevertheless be addressed.
The options for selecting an officer in charge include an in-house appointment, hiring an Interim Director, or using a consultant to assist in the active phase of the strategy process. A combination of these options can be used in the different phases of strategy work.
Designated officer from the organisation
Appointing an in-house person as being responsible for strategy work ensures that progress is made, workshops succeed, materials are available, and stepping-stones are completed. After the strategy upgrade, that person ensures that the jointly agreed strategy is implemented as planned. Of course, tasks and responsibilities can be delegated; but it is important that the allocation of all resources needed for the strategy work is addressed.
One challenge can arise if the designated officer supports the strategy process alongside his or her normal work, in which case tasks that are part of the officer’s actual job calling for acute attention might claim priority over strategy work.
An Interim Director’s role is essentially temporary, so he or she has no personal stake in participating in the in-house games of the rest of the organisation. The focus is therefore totally on the assignment and on the goals and performance indicators set for it. An Interim Director is a part of the organisation and carries the same weight in internal meetings and discussions as any employee or staff member of the organisation. This aspect must, of course, verified by the company’s management and the appropriate scope of authority given to the Interim Director.
An external consultant assists with strategy work when an in-house officer is responsible for the strategy work. A consultant contributes effective work procedures with a proven track record, including current status reports, analyses and workshop methods that help in implementing strategy work. The use of a consultant is a good option when the organisation has appointed an in-house person to learn from the guidance and to later take control of the tools presented by the consultant. Otherwise there is a risk of continuous strategy maintenance and a halt to strategy development after the consultant’s contract ends.
Monitoring, performance indicators and the whole concept of knowledge-based management still need to be addressed to ensure proper functioning of the strategy package. It is important that the framework of an operating model for good knowledge-based management is prepared, alongside the company’s strategy development. Development of a knowledge-based management culture, and development of the technical preparedness for it, alongside the strategy work is vitally important. This also cannot be achieved without planned resources and the acquisition of any specialised expertise needed.
Strategy leads to success
All personnel in a company need to understand why strategy should be taken seriously and why all levels of the whole organisation should commit to it. It is vital to remember that strategy is not a project. It is an element in the everyday activities of the company, such as sales, production and administration. The better the strategy is integrated into management models, meeting procedures and reporting, the fewer separate resources are needed for maintaining a successful strategy.
Chief Executive Officer