Management of Strategies is a vicious cycle. Most organizations aggressively start them and progress till they hit execution roadblocks, they stumble and quit. By then, its time for the year’s performance evaluation so they scramble and fire fight to achieve their goals.
12 Step Strategic Management Cycle is a comprehensive approach that leverages the principles of Hoshin Kanri Policy Deployment and Blue Ocean Strategy. 12 steps mentioned below are followed sequentially, but many of them can be initiated concurrently.
Strategic management process of the coming year commences with a stock-taking exercise of current year’s performance. Most of information relating to current performance will be readily available, but the purpose of this exercise isn’t mere stock-taking. It goes beyond that to understand the lessons learned from current year, variation in performance and reasons for it. Therefore this exercise is reflective in nature.
Internal environment plays a very critical role in our success. Quite often, leaders take internal challenges for granted. They feel that they can push their way through. Internal scanning is aimed at understanding changes in competencies/skills, mindsets, business models, associate satisfaction, attrition reasons, technological/infrastructure barriers, etc. Best way to scan the internal environment is through information research, interviews and focus group discussions.
External environment plays an equally critical role in our success. Scanning of external environment is an evolved task in many organizations. There are industry research bodies, market subject matter experts, analyst reports, secondary information research information, commissioned studies undertaken by the organizations, etc. The only point I wish to highlight is the the voice of customers and more importantly the voice of non-customers.
SWOT is probably one of the oldest management tools. It is simple yet powerful. But it’s also the most abused tool. When I ask leaders to update their SWOTs, they avoid and prefer to delegate. But when I insist, they reluctantly get involved. In reality, the quality of SWOTs are unbearable. Most SWOTs are nothing but a journal of accomplishments and perceptions. But a good SWOT should be factual, frequently updated (at least yearly) and should be prepared with involvement for all stakeholders.
Organizational goals have to be comprehensive and quantitative in nature. A facilitator plays a critical role in conducting pre-work exercise. Potential candidates for goals are collated, grouped, prioritized and selected through consensus.
The real truth about most strategic plans is that there are no real strategies. Goals and strategies are interchangeably used. A good strategic plan should have 3~5 unique strategies derived from SWOT. Strategies answer the ‘How’ part and not the ‘What’.
When goals are finalized, unique owners for each goal are also to be assigned. What differentiates between organizations that are successful with execution and others is their ability to create Individual Ownership and Shared Accountability (IOSA) in delivering organizational goals. ‘Catch-ball’ mechanism is a method adapted in Hoshin Kanri approach to drive this joint accountability for goals.
Strategic Initiatives aka Strategic Projects are nothing but the most important projects that are require sponsorship to achieve specific stretch goals. So it starts with identifying stretch goals that cannot be accomplished by business-as-usual(BAU) means. These are good candidates for strategic projects. It is critical to ascertain ownership, measures of success, duration and sufficient sponsorship for each strategic project. Thus organizations are recommended to choose and run only a limited number of strategic projects. Those which don’t qualify to become strategic projects go into parking lot and are pursued in FIFO (First In First Out) approach. Prioritized strategic projects are funded, sponsored and resourced the most.
Strategies needs to be cascaded to grass-root level and this happens through deployment of strategic plans. Enterprise Strategic Plan needs to be cascaded to Organizational Strategic Plan (Business Unit level) and further to Functional Strategic Plan. Usually, most organizations cascade goals and metrics using Balance Score Card approach, but goals are only one aspect of strategy deployment.
The leader of each strategic project has a project plan. He/She forms a cross functional team. Weekly progress meetings are chaired by the respective project leaders and are meant to take stock of task level progress, identification of bottlenecks, resource constraints and new ideas. The success of any organizational strategy execution resides in the diligence to these routines by the strategic teams.
Monthly strategic reviews are conducted by the Senior Leadership Team that created the Strategic Plans where they review the progress of each strategic project as leader of each project makes a presentation. This forum addresses issues relating to conflict of interest, participation issues, priority setting, etc.
This is the time to reflect. A quarter is good enough a period to validate if the existing strategies and strategic projects are still relevant with respect to the dynamic internal and external environment. If some of them needs to be changed/dropped/added, then those decisions are taken in this meeting. Further formal closures of successfully completed strategic projects and kick-offs of new ones from the parking lot. Thus this meeting acts as the fountainhead of strategic direction for any organization. Unfortunately the agenda for quarterly strategic reviews of many organizations is grossly off these objectives.
Finally, there are no approaches that fits all organizations. Depending on organizational culture, existing practices, leadership bandwidth, etc., its best to align the 12 step approach to organizational practices to create maximum buy-in and minimum chaos.