Published: 20th December 2017
Author: Rob Shorrick
The strategy and future direction of your business should always be front-of-mind if you’re a senior leader. In an increasingly unpredictable climate, however, it is a constant challenge to ensure that a strategy is robust, and that all the required components are aligned and working together.
Technology and automation, new methods of consumer interaction, political volatility, and directives such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mean organisations must scan a far more uncertain horizon than ever before when approaching strategy implementation.
How can leaders ensure that their organisations have the right capabilities in place to find opportunities in these issues, as well as reacting to the conditions of their respective sectors, in order to attain and sustain success?
Here, we highlight some key areas that organisations should consider when (or before) determining their strategy or undertaking business change.
Keeping in mind the organisation’s reason for being is vital to decision making. Before defining strategy and reviewing processes and policies, an organisation should ensure it understands its purpose, and that it is referenced in decision making.
Perhaps the greatest and most obvious example of this is Google’s aim “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Google’s unwavering focus on the primary need of its users – the desire for the quickest access to the best possible information – allowed it to flourish in a once competitive market.
When a core purpose is a defined and working part of the organisation, senior leaders can assess the options available to them more clearly. Will a proposed change allow an organisation to better deliver on its core purpose?
Where decisions are being made within an organisation, it’s fairly common to see ‘behavioural norms’ influencing the process. ‘That’s just the way we do things here’-type-thinking can sometimes limit the scope of strategy, and therefore, success.
Internal challenge is vital to the process of determining a strategy or making strategic changes. Senior leaders should look to proportionate, constructive internal challenge as a way of informing the decision-making process (proportionality being important, here). They should also be able to ask themselves the tough questions about whether the organisation, and its strategy, is set up to succeed. This is certainly true when it comes to the next point…
Alongside establishing a robust strategic plan, an organisation must ask itself whether the right capabilities are in place to deliver it. Senior leaders must consider this in every area of the organisation; from customer-facing staff to management, and from the capabilities of the leadership team to the wider organisational capabilities that reflect the core purpose of the business.
When forming strategy or undertaking business change, how do you form an objective view of the capabilities you need? Where gaps exist, how do you establish the most effective way to secure and sustain the relevant capabilities? Many possible gaps can be targeted and addressed through careful analysis of the internal drivers for success and by the targeted use of the right diagnostic tools and instruments.
Having the right capabilities is reinforced when an organisation applies the skills of its people in the right areas.
Organisational structure plays a key role in delivering on core purpose, ensuring internal cohesion and allowing the organisation to act with agility, in turn ensuring a great experience for customers or service users. Often, only subtle adjustments to organisational structure may be required to adapt to a new strategy or change in strategic direction.
Similarly, systems and processes can help or hinder an organisation in delivering against its core purpose.
Where there are many systems working alongside one another, and where processes must incorporate a range of these systems, there is a risk that administration becomes an obstacle to the implementation of strategy. It is therefore vital that decision-makers in an organisation consider the interaction between systems when thinking about the viability of strategic initiatives.
This type of thinking is becoming prevalent in the light of the publicity data protection is getting currently – many organisations are seeking to reconcile their customer data, gathered on disparate systems, to form a ‘single customer view’, which can, in turn, make processes more agile.
Doing an excellent job is a motivating factor for employees of any organisation. However, any financial or other incentives available are also a driver of behaviour, so it is vital that they work to the benefit of customers or service users.
Do you judge the appropriateness of your incentives against the outcomes you wish to provide customers or service users? Will they help you deliver against your organisation’s long-term strategy?
There are clearly a number of factors governing the success of an organisation, and many considerations that must accompany a change of strategic direction, both in the formative stages and on an ongoing basis.
Before embarking on making a change, or forming a new strategy, organisations must ensure they have considered it from all angles, as even the best strategies can fail if the composite parts are not present and moving in unison.