Author Keith McFarland opened up a workshop I attended this week with this question: If you were going to create a list that is as long as possible, but as short as necessary of the things that determine whether a business wins or loses, what would be on your list?
The audience shouted out likely responses – vision, competitive differentiation, teamwork, talent, leadership, focus, value creation, etc. All of which bucketed into three broad themes: Strategy, Execution and People. Certainly these are nothing new in management literature, but it is always refreshing to hear a different take or emphasis on these standard practices. Here are some key takeaways in each area:
- Dynamic approach to strategy: Strategy is defined as a collection of ideas about how we are going to win. Strategy is created from creating insights leading to decisions resulting in action. Strategy does not need to be a long process, but rather can be built in an agile quick process assuming that it is followed by embedded execution.
- Embedded execution: Strategy cannot be agile if it is not reviewed and refreshed on a quarterly basis. A key part of our practice, as it is with Mr. McFarland, is the idea of technology-enabled execution to link strategy to execution for an administratively-free 90 day review. One great question to ask during the quarterly review is “In the last 90 days, what are the three most important things that we have learned about strategy?” Look for answers that provide observations about the strategy formulation process of insight to decision to action. Adapt the plan accordingly.
- Special forces approach to people: Great insights come from great teams – be more inclusive than less in strategy development to ensure the best insights can turn into action. To create great teams, think about people development like the military does by creating executive development milestones. As leaders, we need to be excited about developing our people and if there is someone you are not excited about, consider moving that person along.
With these practices, any leader can avoid the traps of traditional strategic planning: it’s too infrequent, it’s too exclusive, and it’s too CEO centric.