If you’re sick of strategy meetings whose outcomes are as thin on specifics as they are fat on waffle, here’s how to cut to the chase.
Strategy is a process, not an end goal – it’s not abstract concept, but something you do. Writing for Harvard Business Review, strategic planning consultant Graham Kenny describes six steps to turn your strategy into a practice that produces results.
1) Know your stakeholders. “That’s easy,” you might say. “My stakeholders are customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders.” But remember: “Stakeholders can occupy more than one role.” Take time to understand the full complexity of your business.
2) Identify your customers. An effective strategy can’t be all things to all men. Be specific about who your customers are. If you’re a giant accounting firm like KPMG, your target clients are corporations, and this should be mirrored in your staffing choices, and everything else you do.
3) What do you want from stakeholders? If one of your goals is to reduce staff turnover and boost productivity and innovation, you’ll need to put the relevant metrics and targets in place to monitor progress. “Putting self first seems like heresy,” but you’re running a business to make money; what do you need from your suppliers, customers, shareholders and more, to enable you to achieve your goal?
4) What do stakeholders want from you? If you’re running an airline, you might like to fly at the back of the plane to discover what it’s like for economy passengers. Find out exactly what makes people “purchase from you, work for you, supply to you or invest in you”. Do this by “immersing yourself in the stakeholder experience”. Listen to stakeholders’ comments, complaints and feedback; interview them, invite them to focus groups, engage them in conversation. Find out what they want.
5) Decide how will you meet these needs. “Stakeholders can be great strategists. Tap them in designing strategy.” Flesh out and define your strategy remembering that strategy works best when it is a process of co-creation.
6) Rinse and repeat. Strategy is a process that’s about a mixture of leading and adapting to the needs of your customers, suppliers, employees and shareholders. You need to think of it as an “intimate tango with your key stakeholders”. Firms that continually reassess can produce consistently amazing results.
Firms that take a systems approach to strategy are frequently “gobsmackingly great”. Take these six steps to strategy, and your business will be too.