How Leaders Achieve Strategic Clarity for Success

How Leaders Achieve Strategic Clarity for Success
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Achieve Strategic Clarity

How can your organization get where it wants to go if it does not achieve strategic clarity for the path ahead?  Sadly, IBM reports that less than 10% of even well formulated strategies created in executive strategy retreats are effectively executed. Part of the problem is that the plan, though typically understood by the senior executives who crafted it, is not fully understood or accepted by those who must carry it out.

Strategy Accounts for 31% of the Difference
Though most executives agree that a sound strategic plan is imperative, many disagree on how to implement it throughout the organization. Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of difference between high and low performance in terms of:

While a strategic plan will never be “finished” or “perfect,” if you want to perform at your peak, you need your strategy to be clear, believable, and implementable enough across the entire organization.

Four Steps to Help Achieve Strategic Clarity for Your Organization
Over the last two decades of helping organizations achieve strategic clarity, we have devised a four-step approach to ensure leaders get to where they want to go.

  1. Clear Strategy Definition
    If you want your team to perform, one of the best things you can do is be crystal clear about what you’re trying to accomplish.  You need to clearly define and prioritize a set of strategic objectives so that you have a framework for setting future direction and making important decisions. Set out the critical few big bets that you know will make the most difference to your people and your business.

    Ideally, your strategic priorities, goals, and big bets are developed within the context of your:
    Corporate vision
    Mission statement
    Core values
    Target client profile
    Unique value proposition

    To create clarity and to improve communication, most of our of clients prefer to create a one-page Strategy Communication Map to gather feedback and convey what matters most.

  2. Clear Strategy Involvement & Communication
    Once defined, it is critical that you actively socialize the strategy with those responsible for executing it — ideally both your employees and your external stakeholders. While some strategic areas may be “Tells” from the executive team, give people as much say as possible in the direction, priorities, and how the strategy will be carried out.

    A clear strategy that does not grab the hearts and minds of your people is just wishful thinking.  With minimal involvement or vague strategy communications, you risk lack of buy-in and strategic alignment. The strategy must be easily understood and then owned by all of your constituents.

    Change is difficult. No matter what the path ahead, there will most likely need to be changes in organizational structures, systems, processes, and behaviors. Make sure all your stakeholders “get” the “why” of the change and believe that their best interests will ultimately be served by the effort required.

    Communication of the strategy must be ongoing and two-way. While clear, direct, and consistent communications are a must, the real value lies in ongoing and active discussions, feedback, and adjustments.

  3. Clear Strategy Implementation
    When the strategy is believed to be achievable and fully supported by executives and the workforce, implementation can begin. Pave the way with appropriate changes in resource allocation, supportive and aligned organization practices, and clear, meaningful, and aligned performance incentives.

    To succeed with strategy execution, the entire organization needs to be aligned around the plan and their unique role. As with any change initiative, ensure that the current situation is agreed upon, the vision of change is translated into specific plans of action, and that the dissatisfaction with the status quo is high enough to motivate change.

    And, of course managers need to be held accountable for their part of the action and progress must be tracked as implementation proceeds.

  4. Clear Strategic Flexibility
    No strategy or change initiative is without bumps along the road. When there is a glitch, organizations must be able to respond to changes in the business environment, whether internal or external. In fact, our alignment research found that market responsiveness and change agility are two of the top factors that differentiate high from low performing leadership teams.

    The need for strategic clarity must be weighed against the need to course correct when unexpected factors arise. based upon data from our leadership action learning programs, the key is to constantly evaluate and adapt organizational priorities, skills, and capabilities to be sure they align with strategic intent.

The Bottom Line
Remember, strategic ambiguity and under involvement are the enemies of effective strategy execution. Clearly define and communicate the strategy, actively involve key stakeholders, effectively execute against the plan, and thoughtfully adapt to changes along the way. This is how your business strategy can succeed.

To learn more about how to achieve strategic clarity and improve strategy execution, download 3 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy.

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