It’s a brand new year and we’re working through some strategy refreshers to help managers and decision-makers feel primed and ready to go! Recently, we looked at business plans and business scorecards. Today, we’ll turn our attention to the 7 step strategic process.
The 7 Step Strategic Process
At Intrafocus, we take a practical business approach to strategy development, rather than the more theoretical approach taken by Kaplan and Norton and the Harvard Business Review (HBR).
Accordingly, we use a 7-step strategic process to provide structure and order to each necessary step. Remember, the value of a business strategy lies in the thinking and intent that informs the final written document. We find that most organisations have plenty of written strategies – but not necessarily the ability to implement them!
This is where our 7-step process provides real value, by working as a practical checklist and guide.
Step 1: Vision and Purpose
Vision and purpose define what your organisation is, and what it stands for. These statements describe your ultimate goal and the way that you want to interact with your stakeholder groups.
Your strategy is built on your organisational core values, which in turn instruct vision and business. Every organisation already operates according to core values, so this is a case of identifying 5-6 of the most important values in your business.
Once these are in place, you can create your vision statement, which is a broad and inspirational statement of your long-term view. From here, you add purpose, which explains a) why you exist and b) how you will get to your desired future state.
As you can see, vision and purpose are wholly linked and some businesses will actually manage to combine the two, with their core values, into a single – and hugely powerful – strategic intent.
Step 2: Set Strategic Priorities
Spend time creating three strategic priorities to focus on. We recommended brainstorming ideas on a wall of information with plenty of post-its! Look at your business’s current situation, future view and value proposition – the most persuasive reasons why your customers should choose your product or service offer.
Gather your ideas to group similar themes, and then take the words already written to write three priority statements. Why three? Because of the law of diminishing returns! Set three and you’ll achieve at least 2. Now write a strategic result for each priority using outcome-based language.
Step 3: Objectives
Now we need to take your strategic priorities and transform them into actionable items under four categories? Financial, Customer, Internal Processes and Organisational Capacity. When considering each objective, consider your vision, purpose and priority, and the skills and expertise of your workforce. Each must be essential to the strategy, controllable by the business, truly essential and measurable in our 7 step strategic process.
Relate objectives to each other by grouping 3-4 strategic objectives under each of the categories mentioned above. Then link relationships between each, to show how a ‘lower’ objective can influence a linked ‘upper’ objective. Finally, check that you can measure each objective so that it is a clear improvement activity that can be quantified.
Step 4: Set your KPIs
You might want to revisit our KPI refresher here! Remember that Key Performance Indicators can be counted and compared to evidence attainment of an objective during a period of time. E.g. KPIs show how well you are delivering against your objectives.
Most KPIs will be lagging to evidence success or failure, but some should be leading too – clarifying actions needed to achieve success. Once your KPIs are created they should be ranked in priority order and then assigned to individuals. Finally, they must be given upper and lower performance thresholds, based against your targets. These set parameters for acceptable performance. We find that most businesses use the Red, Amber, Green (RAG) system to track their KPIs.
Step 5: Projects and Actions
Strategic planning leads to two activities – strategic projects that deliver change and remedial actions to fix a problem (also known as quick wins.) Businesses love the latter, but we need to focus on strategic projects to cause desirable change.
Creating projects tends to be relatively easy, building on the thought processes you have followed to this stage. Write out a list of projects and then select the most important. We recommend using the Scored Selection Criteria Based Matrix for impartiality. Now work up the details of those projects!
Step 6: Communicate
Your business can now plan its strategy communications rollout, considering audiences, channels, key messages and communication owners. Make sure it is delivered in a considered and inclusive cascade, using channels that your employees can access (remember those field workers!)
Step 7: Automation
Most businesses will also look to automate the strategic process with a specialist tool that allows you to manage the entire process from end to end and to create rich dashboards and reports for your decision-makers. We recommend Quickscore, which works particularly well with the Balanced Scorecard methodology. You can even sign up for a free trial of it to see if it fits your needs.
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The team of consultants at Intrafocus are here to help your organisation take its business strategy forward, whatever your current stage of development. With years of experience across industries and sectors, we help you to translate your business vision into a clear strategy, ready to implement for sustainable competitive advantage. Please contact us to find out more.