Strategy

by Doreen Yarnold

Strategy development

Once the goals and objectives have been set, the team now comes to the crucial stage of strategic development (see SDS diagram). All of the outputs in the SDS process are now reviewed and assimilated, and the key emerging themes are compiled into a list of broad activities and manoeuvres that the organisation and its functions/departments/teams will need to take in order to achieve the vision and fulfil the mission.

As with objective setting, it is generally helpful for the organisation’s core team to recommend the high level strategies, with the lower organisational levels tailoring and amending these to suit their own particular functional area.

It is also sometimes helpful for strategies to be grouped into areas to provide focus, and presented as programmes (which in turn can be broken down into individual projects – see the Programme Management, Project Management and Risk Management topics). Such areas can either be functional, such as financial, marketing and so on, or cross-functional – building technology, empowering our people, international development or enhancing profitability.

Again, the iterations found with objective setting need to be undertaken for strategies as well, to ensure consistency and completeness up, down and across the organisation.

Some useful questions

Test the analysis data by considering the following questions that you should now be in a position to answer. If you cannot answer any of these questions, your analysis has not gone deep enough or far enough or both

  • From the analysis, are there any serious weaknesses that, if not addressed immediately, would impede the chances of the strategy succeeding? An example here might be urgent funding requirements that are lacking. If so, deal with these first so that the business is on a relatively stable footing for the strategy implementation stage.
  • Also, once again from the analysis, are there any imminent threats that need urgent focus and attention in order to avert a more serious situation happening? If so, deal with these first, don’t be tempted to create the strategy first, or it could be too late.
  • Have you considered both internal requirements (such as resources) and external requirements (such as markets, competitors, suppliers, customers and so on) in your analysis?
  • Are there any dependencies that need to be taken into account? For example, will the strategy depend on something else happening outside its area of influence or control in order for it to be successful? If so, what is it, and how likely, or not, is it to happen?
  • Is there a budgetary limitation within which the strategy needs to operate?
  • Are there any political, economic, social or technological considerations to be aware of, either now or on the horizon (for example, recession, interest rates, change of government, more advanced technology and so on)?
  • Is there any key element of the analysis that we might have missed that is critical to the overall success of our strategy? If there is, include it now and consider it in depth in relation to everything else outlined above.

Only if we are able to fully answer the above questions should we now be considering the following questions:

  • What would need to be in place to move us from where we are now to where we need to be in the future?
  • What should we stop doing?
  • What should we start doing?
  • What are we currently doing that we should continue to do?
  • What are the priorities and time-dependencies of what we are proposing (time-line)?
  • What, how and when will we communicate and to whom?
  • What are the likely stumbling blocks and pitfalls that we need to guard against?
  • What contingencies might we need to put in place for ‘what if’ scenarios (linked to the answers to the above question)?

Will the strategy deliver the key objectives and goals?

The crucial question is whether the strategy will deliver the key objectives and goals that will in turn deliver the aspired future position. Be brutally honest – if the answer is ‘No, it won’t’, you must then go back and see what else needs to be included in order for this to happen. For example, is one new factory and the expansion of the existing facility adequate for the specific volumes that have been outlined in the key objectives and goals?

This level of scrutiny and evaluation has to be thought through and it has to be accurate. If the numbers don’t stack up in terms of what the strategy consists of and what the future position and key objectives look like, then either the future position has to be reviewed, or the strategy, or both. They have to fit together like a jig-saw. Any discrepancy at this point could have disastrous consequences further down the line, particularly if corporate decisions are hanging on this future position being achieved.