Welcome to the second instalment of our seven-step strategic process series. Last week we looked at how to Lay the Foundation for Strategic Success before launching into the strategy development itself (defining the values, vision and purpose of the organisation.)

Today, we’ll focus on step 2 of the Intrafocus seven-step strategy development process: Assessment. 

Step 2: Assessment

In stage one, we developed the organisation’s values, vision and purpose. In the second stage, assessment, we transform these into a shortlist of strategic priorities. Why? Because your vision and purpose provide a great starting point for your organisational direction of travel, but your managers will need detail and definition to guide their teams along the right path.

We create our strategic priorities using highly workable, proven techniques such as SWOT, benchmarking, gap analysis and the strategy canvas.

The result is that your vision will translate into three to four manageable work priority areas, which will then inform the development of strategic objectives. The beauty of this proven process is that everything flows in sequence and allows your strategy development team to build on each stage logically and intuitively.

Carrying out the assessment

A good approach to tackling this assessment stage is to gather 3-5 people from your executive team and book a workshop, where you’ll focus on three exercises. Allow two hours per exercise and time to write up your findings.

During this workshop, the exercises you complete will allow you to look deeply at what your organisation needs to achieve in the period ahead and define the desired outcomes that will guide specific work.

There are several tools you can use for a business assessment. These include Porter’s Five Forces and PESTLE analysis. However, we find the following three to be the most useful:

1. SWOT analysis

Commonly, this is carried out via a matrix. The left-hand column details the enablers, and the right-hand column defines the challenges. This should be completed by 4-5 people who know and understand the business in detail, such as a mix of senior managers and 1-2 key subject matter experts.

We recommend that the SWOT analysis is carried out via a 2-hour focused workshop. Attendees should arrive prepared with their research, to begin brainstorming and collective information gathering. We usually guide this exercise with post-it notes and a blank wall! Throughout the ongoing rationalisation of ideas and de-duping, we work towards an end-point of 10-12 final items.

2. The Picture of the Future.

Although strategy requires a future focus, it’s challenging to predict the future. So this technique is a great way to imagine and visualise what success will look like within your organisation.

Allow two hours and schedule it immediately after your SWOT exercise. Get the same attendees to visualise themselves three years into the future when your business is experiencing immense success. Explain how this success has been achieved using brainstorming and write up your notes on Post-Its. 

For example, success’s achieved by developing new technology, re-engineering your supply chain, re-branding or moving into a new market. Think broadly. Again, aim to end up with around a dozen statements.

With your Post-Its still on the wall, it’s now time to work on the third exercise:

3. Values Proposition

It’s vital that your business can define what it offers to your target market in simple terms. This is a value proposition that needs to capture the most persuasive reasons why your target audience should be interested in what you offer. Use an hour and ask your attendees to write up different possible elements, again onto those trusty Post-It notes. Pop them on the wall alongside the results of the previous two exercises. Remove your duplicates, combine similar statements and end up with a healthy dozen possible elements, such as; convenience, luxury, knowledgeable, expert, trustworthy and so forth.

Create your strategic priorities

You’ll now have a busy wall filled with around 30-40 Post-It notes covering your enablers, challenges, future picture and value proposition statements. These things are all critical to your strategy and will allow you to define your strategic priorities. 

There are different techniques to follow here, for example, Affinity Grouping, which groups the post-its into groups by subject. Your aim here is to find three groups to become strategic priorities, one to inform core values and one to contain ‘non-contributory’ factors to consider later. Why only three strategic priorities? 

  • 2-3 priorities, you are likely to achieve 2 or 3
  • 4-10 priorities, you are likely to achieve 1 or 2
  • 10+ priorities, you are likely to achieve nothing

Define your strategic result.

The final step in this process stage is to take your three defined strategic priorities and write your ‘strategic result’ for each. This means writing down exactly what you mean by each priority before those valuable post-its are taken down! Use outcome-based language and then enter your strategic priority data into the Strategic Plan Summary and Template; both of which can be found here: https://www.intrafocus.com/strategic-planning-process/

Looking for help?

This stage of the Strategic Planning Process requires a solid time commitment from some of your organisation’s busiest and most expensive people. You may invest in facilitation and guidance to ensure your planning session is as focused and fruitful as possible. The Intrafocus team is here to help you get the most from your strategic priority planning and the strategic planning process.