Do’s and don’ts of the seasonal strategic “itch”


Just before Christmas, in an unusually hot and humid period, I was attacked by “mossies” while sleeping. The blighters feasted on my left shoulder, leaving a very itchy area.
So what you ask, and fair enough to wonder at the relevance.
It occurred to me that it was a nice metaphor for the “strategic itch” that seems to occur in many enterprises around this time of year. Someone, usually the CEO, gets a mossie in his ear about strategy, which results in everyone putting in an effort to redo the stuff that was probably done last year, a few updated numbers, some new graphs, and a reaffirmation of some vision and mission statements. All this of course culminating in an off-site 2 day meeting that involves a bad head-ache on the second morning.
The itch is scratched for another year, there are some “decisions” that are incorporated into the budget process, but little of real value has been achieved.
Just as scratching the mossie bites on my shoulder offered short term relief, but had little impact on the time it took for the itch to go away, and indeed ran the risk of causing some longer term problems if infection set in, so does the yearly strategic meeting do little, but potentially causes problems.So, here are a few “do’s and don’ts” that may remove the causes of the itch.
• Identify and consider the drivers of performance and change in your industry
• Consider how your current capabilities are lined up against these drivers, identify gaps, and agree how to address them.
• Review and consider your responses to the value propositions of your competitors, and consider what you would do to you, if you were them.
• Re-acquaint yourself with your customers, ensure you know why they buy from you and not others, and consider the manner in which you build relationships with them.
• Spend time identifying the “cause and effect” chains in your business, and how you can make them more visible, efficient, manageable, and accountable.
• Do a bit of “what if” scenario planning, the more out of the box the better
• Have some different people, from both inside and outside the enterprise in the process and at the meeting to avoid just continuing status quo thinking.
• Remember that innovation capability is about the only sustainable competitive advantage left to us, so consider how best to build the capability to innovate, without worrying too much about that new product in the pipeline.
• Agree a small set of KPI’s that reflect the most important things you considered, and ensure the processes are in place, or at least agreed to measure and communicate performance against them.
• Make sure everyone in the enterprise understands the priorities, and the underlying logic of the priorities, in other words, achieve alignment throughout the business.
Do not:
• Concentrate on the numbers, these days they are too easily generated and tend to remove the motivation to think.
• Allow status to be a determining factor in the importance given to every individuals contribution to the conversation
• Shy away from difficult, or confronting people or conversations.
• Think that all the answers to tough questions can be arrived at in the meeting.
• Think the job is done when the conversation ends. You get 1/10 for talking, the other 9 for doing.
• Think that this is a one-off, annual event. Strategy planning and review processes should be at the heart of enterprise governance, and are an ongoing challenge, particularly for boards.

Have a good strategy meeting.

About strategyaudit

StrategyAudit is a boutique strategy and marketing consultancy concentrating on the challenges of the medium sized manufacturing businesses that make up the backbone of our economy. The particular focus is on their strategic and marketing development. as well as the business and operational efficiency improvements necessary for day to day commercial survival. We not only give advice, we go down "into the weeds" to ensure and enable implementation.
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