Running a Great Strategy Review (6 mins)

Great strategy reviews are the heartbeat of any strategic management process. Reviewing the status of your goals and objectives, adapting your tactics at regular intervals will help ensure you’re working on the right stuff.

For more resources on building your strategic plan, view the Essentials Guide to Strategic Planning.

Video Transcript

Hi, my name’s Erica Olsten with OnStrategy. Today’s whiteboard session is about running and participating in a great strategy review. We’ll walk through how to set one up, the content you’ll walk through, and how the presentation needs to flow.

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But before we get too far ahead, let’s talk about the purpose of a strategy review. Strategy reviews are the heartbeat of a strategic management process, and what I mean by that is without a strategy review, you do not have a living, breathing plan. And everybody wants a plan that’s alive and we’re using, and we’re executing, and we’re talking about it, and we don’t want it to sit on the shelf.

This is how your plan does not sit on the shelf. So, let’s talk about how you actually run a great one, and how you make sure that it doesn’t feel operational, that it feels strategic, and it’s going to feel strategic when you’re talking about are we working on the right stuff? Not what are we working on. And as we walk through this, we’ll make sure that that’s how you achieve working on the right stuff instead of what are we working on.

All right, so the setup. Timing. Normally you’re going to do your review after the financials have closed for the previous period or the previous month in this case. So for example, if you’re doing a review about January performance, you’re going to want to do your review when the books have closed in February, probably the second or third week of February most of the time.

How often do you have a strategy review? Most organizations have monthly reviews, sometimes quarterly is as much as people can take on. I would highly recommend monthly; 60 to 90 minutes is a pretty good target.

Attendees. Who should attend? Those individuals that own goals absolutely need to be in attendance and potentially those folks that own initiatives as well. You might want to keep it smaller to get started, just to kind of get it going, and then it may be expanded broader. At the end of the day, it’s a great communication tool, and certainly, can be opened to everybody in the organization if that’s what you choose.

And last, but certainly not least, the biggest thing with writing a great review is having the right data and having it served up in the right manner. You need to have your data for your key performance indicators, so the quantitative stuff. And the qualitative stuff, there’s plenty of stuff in plans that are just tracked based on red, green, yellow. So, you need an updated set of that as well.

To make that really happen, you need a system. We have a software system, as most of you know, so that’s what our system does. There are many other software systems out there. Spreadsheets do the trick, too. However you do it, the data collection is critical to making sure the rest of the process works.

All right. So what’s the content? Here’s a standard structure of a strategic plan. Yours might look a little different. Strategic objectives, annual goals, initiatives and action items. So what you’re not talking about are action items. That’s too tactical.

Strategic objectives are going to be how we structure the agenda for the reviews, and we’ll talk about that in just a minute. More than likely, you’re going to be talking about the goal level, the annual goal level, and possibly touching on some initiatives if it’s relevant. So, the right level is the annual goals or the corporate goals.

All right. So there’s two different ways to structure the agenda. One way to structure the agenda is by functional area or by department or division, whereby the sales team and the R&D Ops, whatever, are talking about their performance against goals and probably some of their initiatives.

Another way to go about it would be to report it on the themes of your plan or the strategic objective area. So you would talk about how are doing organizationally from a financial perspective, from a customer and a growth perspective, from an operational excellence perspective, and from a people perspective, or however your plan is structured.

I prefer this because this can feel a little operational, and this is more holistic in the context of where are we going organizationally, not just what are the different departments doing? So my recommendation would definitely be to do it like this. Most of the time, you can get through all of the areas of your plan in 60 to 90 minutes, but if you have a really big plan, you might consider doing two of the perspectives in one month, and then the next two the next month and however you mix that up just to be a little bit practical about the time.

However, you do it, the agenda would be structured such that each goal owner has three to five minutes to talk about their performance against their goal, and I’ll talk about that in just a second. And then the agenda would flow through each of the goals in the financial area, market growth and so on.

All right, so the most important part is that the goal champions, or the goal owners, are clear about what we’re presenting. So, we obviously using the data as our visual, and the talk track would sound something like this. In three to five minutes review, are we on plan? And are we on plan against the performance members? The two to three that he or she might be presenting. What have we accomplished in the last “X” number of days. If you’re doing it monthly, in the last 30 days. What’s the focus for the next 30? And really important, is there any help that’s needed and are there any changes to the plan or the strategy that this goal champion is recommending?

As a tip, 20% of the three to five minutes should be looking back and 80% looking forward. Strategy reviews are absolutely about adapting for the future, not just looking at the past.

The other tip I would give you if you are a presenter is keep it at the 15,000-foot level. Keep it to three to five minutes. Again, it’s about, are we moving forward in the right direction? Not getting into all of the detail, and that’s definitely a trap that will make the strategy review not feel great and feel really kind of bogged down.

So with that, good luck running your first strategy review. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Happy strategizing.



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