“A vision without a strategy remains an illusion.”
— Lee Bolman
Strategy is intended to pave the path to execution by defining where you will focus your efforts to realize your vision. I often find the biggest gap in a company’s strategy occurs when leadership provides high-level goals that are too vague and lack the clarification of their intended outcome. Left open for interpretation, these goals are not seen as attainable strategic plans by employees and can cause misalignment when left unchecked. This misinterpretation is most dangerous when the delivery teams have the autonomy to prioritize solutions as they see fit leading to a lack of execution alignment. In this blog, I provide some tips on how to develop a well-defined strategy and avoid misalignment.
What is Strategic Development?
I like to think of strategic development as a refinement process that peels back layers of a company’s vision (what you want to accomplish) and mission (how you plan to obtain your vision). These high-level statements of purpose serve as simple, direct elevator pitches that are easy to recite and meant to be inherently motivating. Facilitated as a collaborative effort, strategic development takes the company’s purpose statements to a deeper more clarifying level by answering key questions such as:
- Who will your product or service serve? How will it benefit those customers?
- What is your market differentiator? What makes your product or service unique?
- What steps will you take to achieve these goals? (Building a strategic roadmap.)
Benefits of Well-Defined Strategy
Strategic development helps clarify the intended outcome (the why) of your mission and vision by breaking down your statements of purpose into obtainable objectives and then identifying the business value each objective aims to achieve. Additionally, if leadership dissects their high-level goals to clearly state their intended business value and outcome, teams can clearly map their priorities, make sound tactical decisions with business value in mind, and better determine how to measure success. A well-defined strategy serves four valuable business purposes:
- Provides clarity for your near and long-term goals.
- Helps prioritize delivery roadmaps.
- Improves your team’s tactical decision-making.
- Enables strategic to execution alignment.
One way to ensure maturation of your strategy is arriving at a level of detail that not only outlines your areas of focus, but simultaneously define guardrails around your business goals and priorities with a strong emphasis on what differentiates your company’s goals. Your product or services cannot be everything to everyone; therefore, deliberately making choices about what your company will do or service versus what it will not do is a necessary step in refining your strategic plan. This is how important priority decisions or trade-offs are enabled and focus of your execution teams is achieved.
Another way to ensure your strategic plans are realized is companywide communication. Not only does this ensure your employees understand your strategy, but like well-defined requirements gathering, effective strategy is developed and defined through multiple iterations and conversations involving multiple roles and viewpoints. Intentional dissemination of your strategic plans may also encourage a healthy feedback loop with your employees and mid-level leadership.
Tips to Take on your Strategic Development Journey
- Provide measurable objectives and key results to enable results-driven delivery.
- Deliberately develop “what you are NOT” to keep scope and priorities focused.
- Communicate strategy companywide to enable feedback and execution alignment.