Are we missing the point of strategy?

Strategic plans can drive major business success when they are understood and lived by every member of the organisation.  This is easy to say, but much more challenging to achieve. My own journey with strategy hasn’t always been smooth sailing…

“Strategy” is probably one of the most over used – and abused – words in our business world.  Why?  What has fuelled our modern love-affair with a particular word?  “We need to set our strategic goals.” “We need to re-evaluate this strategy.” “Have you completed the strategic plan?” 

Nearly every company has a strategic plan of some kind.  But, does it really matter? What useful impact has ‘strategy’ made to our world?  Nearly every person in business has experienced the unproductive, un-proactive repercussions of strategy, so why should anybody in business keep going with strategy and strategic planning?  In fact, were these disasters even strategic plans, or were they annual resource allocation planning (aka business planning)?

The new year is a time of reflection. When Langano’s clients succeed, our team feels that we have left the world slightly better for our efforts – that we have made a genuine difference. We looked back on 2018 with some satisfaction because all our clients had done well.  But we couldn’t help noticing that some had done really well and others had just made satisfactory progress.  This begs the question of what sets the really successful organisations aside?

Strategic planning is just one part of planning and directing our business’ journey.  It sits alongside business planning.  The value of any planning lies only partly in developing our plan.  What really matters is bringing a strategy, or a plan to life in your organisation. And this requires people who understand, support and live the strategy. It is the fundamental thing that is left out of most planning efforts. 

The goal of any planning process and its key success criteria must be a change in the organisation’s behaviour.  Ignoring this key criteria is this oversight that has given strategic planning the poor reputation it has today.  

The more we looked at our clients’ performance throughout the year, the more obvious it became that some organisations were able to bring their strategies and plans to life.  They gave their entire staff a reason for going to work, made what they were doing enjoyable, worthwhile and rewarding. and these were the most successful organisations.  These organisations brought their strategy and plans to life in the hearts and minds of their entire team.

To do this requires a genuinely shared vision for the organisation, clarity of what constitutes success and understanding about how the team will achieve this success.  Sharing our vision as a leader requires not just good, but exceptional communications skills.

Thinking about this took me back to my early days as a newly minted CEO at Commerce Queensland (the Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as it was then known).  I gathered all the 22-person strong leadership team and held a strategy workshop.  It was great, we had a plan that would see the organisation on a path to great success. But a few week later, I was discussing actions with one of the managers and realised that while we had agreed very clearly on the words themselves, we had not reached agreement on what the words actually meant. We had completely missed the important part of developing the strategy. Good job, Joe!

This experience proved that the chosen words are less important than the meaning behind those words.  And from that point throughout my career, I understood that the strategy itself is not so important, rather, it is the shared beliefs, common language and understanding and commitment to the organisation, created during the planning process that makes strategic planning so potentially powerful.

So, in 2019, the Langano Team want to make the concept of ‘bringing your strategy to life’ heard, understood and supported by the business community. We don’t just want to help you create a strategic plan, we want to support you in bringing your strategic plan to life. Because that is where the real value lies.

I’ll leave you with this question… Is your strategic plan actually adding value to your organisation?