Vision and Strategy Execution
Creating Strategy that Sticks
Too often we see a vision or strategy creation approach involving a senior executive hand-picking a team, then locking them away to develop a future three to five year strategy. Quite often the previous strategy receives a cursory dust-off with a few percentage points added, there is very little interrogation as to whether the previous plan worked or not. This approach is similar to developing a strategy in a vacuum. It is our experience that strategy execution will not succeed when built in a vacuum.
At AllChange we invest many-many hours thinking about how to create the right environment and conditions that will lead to optimal levels of engagement, participation and follow-through delivery. With this in the cross-hairs we develop activities that integrate creative and collaborative techniques and environments to engage stakeholders – all wired to stimulate big picture understanding, ignite group genius, build consensus, accelerate implementation activity and deliver business value quickly. During these activities we often employ accelerated learning and high-performance team techniques to create an environment where serious business thinking and unrestrained possibility thinking co-exist. These activities are specifically designed to engage and harness the skills and knowledge that already exist within the business.
We consistently apply the following approach principles when helping our clients create and implement their vision (and follow-on strategies). These principles have been developed from hard-earned experience and as a result of witnessing what works and does not work:
1. The Creation Approach (Strategy Development)
Your vision and strategy need to have a clear line-of-sight-of and connect-with your business reality. If they are based on inaccurate assumptions, assertions and stereotypes there is a high likelihood they will fail to get you where you need to go.
2. The Collaborative Approach
Your vision and strategy will be more effective when a broad base of the ‘right’ people is involved in the design and planning of the envisaged change. Involving key stakeholders who have a clear sight of the business reality will test thinking more robustly and will in-turn connect your thinking to your organizations reality. This approach presents the added advantage of providing deeper meaning and what we call ‘recognition-factor’ to your people, with the removal of abstract, ambiguity and misunderstanding with key stakeholder audiences. Involving key delivery owners in the early vision development phase will also increase ownership, buy-in and accountability when vision implementation commences. In short, by getting the right people involved at an early stage means the owners work harder at removing the barriers.
3. The Implementation Approach
Your vision will need to encompass all strategic and operational execution. Organizations are reasonably adept at designing new organizational structures and operating models. However most do not fully appreciate how to bring the new organizational initiatives to life through meaningful deployment and implementation. Effective implementation requires a big-picture understanding across the organization, as well as clear alignment between objectives and actions. To achieve this effectively, communication needs to be in a whole-system, plain language operational format that aligns actions to goals by providing clear objectives with clear instructions on how to get there…this is where vision comes into its own and is unrivalled as a mechanism for change.
4. The Measurement Approach
The people who own and are responsible for bringing the vision and strategy to life must clearly understand what the aspired future state and success looks like (and in rich detail). When measurement is tackled holistically during the early vision creation and strategic planning stages, and is fully geared to directing and supporting implementation, we have found that executives can road-map implementation activity more effectively. In this scenario they are well placed to prioritize and deploy resources, can better measure progress and proactively lead transformational change. There is a greater sense of orientation in the heat of delivery and as such people are better equipped to make coordinated adjustments to keep activity on track.
5. The Visualisation Approach
Your vision and strategy must be clearly understood by all who have a role in making it happen – from the bridge down to the boiler room of your organization. In order to achieve this, everyone must be working on the same page with a commonly understood and agreed language framework that express the ideas and technical concepts that describe your vision and strategy (as well as the activities, initiatives and capabilities required to execute effectively).
But words alone will only get you so far!
When going through the visualization process we advocate the use of visual thinking (art and pictures) including graphic facilitation and recording techniques to:
- Enhance collaboration
- Promote big picture thinking
- Tackle complex system level challenges
- Visually model group thinking – increasing group memory and follow through
- Capture thinking in story form – promoting emotional connection and deeper meaning
Groups get much smarter when they can think in big picture formats that allow for comparison, pattern finding and idea mapping – these qualities are highly valuable when developing vision and strategy. Visual thinking is a powerful way to resolve confusion in groups that arise from inadequate or conflicting mental models. People accept ideas more readily when their minds are in ‘visual story mode’, rather than ‘analytical mode’. The viral marketing of ideas depends first and foremost on stories…for an idea to pass from one person to another it must be contained in something that can be easily transmitted, just as a disease will spread within a human population via a highly contagious virus. A good visual story is precisely that kind of container.