3 steps to creating a great business strategy.
“A strategy is a guidebook to a foreign country. The foreign country is your future organisation.”
At Big Data London earlier this month, one speaker used the analogy of a strategy being a race through a park. In my mind, a strategy is a guidebook to a foreign country. The foreign country is your future organisation. And by guidebook I do not mean a Rough Guides style but more of a DK Eyewitness – especially as DK Eyewitness have now remodelled their format to make their guidebooks even more user friendly!
As a Business Consultant working with clients to develop and implement strategies every day, I've determined that there are 3 basic steps to follow to ensure you end up with a great business strategy which will guide your future organisation.
Step 1 – Involve your own experts
If you were going to put together a guidebook for any country or place, you’d want to engage the experts, the locals, those who know the place inside-out and could suggest what you should include in your guide. The same is true for a business strategy. Rather than developing a strategy in a closed room of select individuals, make sure you share your plans with the wider organisation. Believe in the knowledge and judgment of your employees enough to share with them. This is particularly important when identifying the risks of doing nothing and the opportunities that might present themselves as a result of a new strategic direction. This is also a good opportunity to understand the current capabilities of your employees and what their aspirations are for the future – do they have a growth and life-long learning mindset? Or do they have ideas of their own regarding the direction of the company, updating processes and exploring the potential of new markets?
This is my simple recommendation for Step 1:
Engage representatives from across the business to shape your strategy. And, when you’re done, share it with a wide audience.
Step 2 – Make it easy to consume
Similar to the guidebook, a strategy should give readers a few key facts (an infographic is often helpful here) about the strategy, explaining to them where the organisation is going, who their customers will be, some of the phrases they will need to understand and use, and some of the activities they will do. A strategy will also include some dangers and opportunities – like any travel guide, it should highlight what to watch out for, and the things you really don’t want to miss out on seeing.
On that point, any good strategy should also be accessible to everyone who needs or wants to read it. The length of the document really depends on how detailed you want or need the strategy to be. Whilst there isn’t metric for how many pages a strategy should be, the longer it is the higher the risk of losing people as they read it, or them realising it’s over 50 pages long and simply not engaging at all. Supplying a 10-page summary version, in addition to a more detailed strategy document, can be a good way to compromise. Both documents need to be easy-to-read, without business jargon and ambiguity, and tell the story of the future of the organisation.
So, my recommendation for Step 2:
Make your strategy clear and concise, and something that people will want to engage with and can easily understand.
Step 3 – Create a roadmap too
One of our clients was recently telling me about their ‘Digital First’ strategy. This was a stand-alone document; there wasn’t any document with a plan to support how the strategy was going to be implemented or what activities would be undertaken at an enterprise level to make it a reality. A supporting document offering a clear direction would have really helped my client’s team understand what they needed to do.
What they needed was a roadmap. The roadmap enables everyone to see, at a glance, the organisation’s direction of travel and how the strategy will be brought to life. Think of the roadmap like the section of the guidebook that tells you the top five or ten highlights to see on your trip for each month of year, and show people how to get there!
So, Step 3:
Create a roadmap to stand alongside your strategy document and actively show how you are going to implement it.
Those are the three steps to giving your business strategy the best chance of success - and here’s my checklist for your completed strategy. By the end, your readers should have a clear idea of:
- The intentions behind the strategy
- What is going to happen to achieve it
- The skills they will need to develop to execute it – and how the business will support them in this development
- How life at work will look and feel at the end of the strategy’s implementation. For example, if we’re talking about a data strategy, your readers should feel that they can now trust the organisation’s data and have confidence in the reporting and insights delivered from analytics.
If you need help developing a strategy that works for your organisation, our consultants can help get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Unsplash / Denise Jans
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