To Move Faster Create Strategic Clarity “Game-by-Game”

A business man stands at a board where he is drawing a game plan to illustrate strategic clarity

A recent CEO described their role as the organization’s leader in charge of strategic clarity and implementation. The CEO believes, as do we, that CEOs should work with the executive team and other key stakeholders to:

  1. Craft a business strategy that will support the game plan for success
  2. Ensure the strategy is understood, believable and implementable enough
  3. Oversee the execution of the strategic plan as it is implemented and adjusted throughout the organization

The best leaders learn from strategic implementation and improve with each iteration. As their organizations grow, one would think that they would also find it easier. But as organizations grow, so do the problems. CEOs often become more entangled with internal issues than what is going on in their market and at their customers’.

There is a school of thought that goes beyond achieving basic strategic clarity. The idea is that, just as large ships are less maneuverable than a smaller boat and require more time for changes in direction, a business strategy for a larger organization is typically slower to effectively adapt to changes in the market.  According to my sailing friend, it takes approximately 15 minutes to safely turn a large cruise ship 180 degrees but only 3 minutes to turn a battleship 180 degrees.  This makes sense as cruise ships are built for comfort and battleships are built for war.

How can you protect your bigger (and perhaps built for comfort) organization from these insurgents who innovate, adapt and deliver faster because they are built to swoop in and quickly win under-served markets or opportunities?

By supporting mini-game plans within the overall business strategy.

The idea is to more narrowly define specific goals for well-chosen, discrete, cross-functional teams. They can operate just the way a small boat or battleship would to dash here and there to clear obstacles in the path of the larger cruise ship. Pursuing the overall strategy “game-by-game” typically brings the focus back on the customer. Instead of being consumed by the internal issues that loom large in bigger corporations, the voice of the customer comes back into the executive office. The front line has more sway in the C-suite as decisions need to be made and the speed to innovate is back where it belongs…in the forefront.

A mini-game plan should have a very specific goal. Whereas corporate goals are typically general in nature, such as increasing revenues by 5% over the coming year, a mini-goal would target increasing revenues of a specific product sold through a specific channel. Let’s say you set the mini-game goal of improving the sales of mid-price hybrid mini-vans in the northern California market. You will need experts of all kinds…from marketing, front-line sales, manufacturing, operations, finance, customer service and those who understand customer preferences. Give the team the resources and support it needs and then let them loose to do their work using a leadership action learning approach.

The executive’s role is to require regular reports from this team and to learn from their experience. Where are they winning? What failures have they experienced? The small team’s successes should be capitalized upon and their failures should be lessons in what to do better next time.

This mini-game approach gives you as CEO the best of both worlds…the maneuverability of small teams and the learning power of big teams.

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