Have you ever noticed at the mere mention of a strategy planning session packs of large yellow stickies suddenly appear in great abundance? There is no doubt that strategy panning is keeping Post-It Notes in business. I’m not suggesting for a moment that this is a bad thing. On the contrary, other than the Strategy Map, I would suggest that the large yellow sticky is the single most important tool available to a business strategist.
Being able to get ideas and short statements written quickly and placed in full view, and this is the important bit, to be able to move these items around at will, is one of the most creative and satisfying activities there is. Having information on a yellow sticky mean nothing gets lost. If your idea, your golden nugget, doesn’t make it to the final strategy map then never mind. It will not get thrown away, it simply gets added to the ‘parking lot’ for consideration at a later date.
But there is a problem. Writing strategic objectives on post-it notes, even when they are the size of a post card, means you can only successfully write three or four words. So we will frequently see: Improve Customer Service, or Reduce Sales Costs, or Improve Price Competitiveness. These all sound great. Unfortunately they are only buzz-words, they have no true meaning other than to the person who has written them. As they are placed on the wall, everyone might agree that it was a sensible strategic objective, but only because they have heard the commentary.
Without a commentary, the objective could mean anything as can be seen in the illustration below:
Enter the ‘Intended Result’. When an Intended Result is appended to a Strategic Objective then it becomes the thing it is really meant to be. That is, a focused business objective that has a very specific outcome. In strategic planning we have a tendency to want to do too much, to resolve all of the problems we have in an instant. The reality of business life however, is that we all have day-jobs, the majority of a company will be involved in the day to day running of the company. This will mean there is a a finite amount of time to concentrate on strategic matters. So knowing the Intended Result of a strategic objective will focus the effort in the right place.
For more information on Strategic Objectives and Intended Results, why not look at one of our Balanced Scorecard Professional classes.