Dans ce deuxième article sur la stratégie (lire le premier : « Les non-stratégies : comment certaines stratégies n’en sont pas »), John S. Hamalian liste ce qui lui paraissent être les points clés d’une bonne stratégie, de sa définition à sa mise en œuvre sur le terrain.
There are few more important things to any organisation than the presence of a clear, intelligent and well-structured strategic plan; it aligns the entire team on the long-term goals, provides purpose and clarity to the necessary outcomes to achieve them and engages employees in execution of the actions. From a Process Excellence perspective, a solid plan with concise objectives and actions can help to ensure that improvement initiatives are properly aligned to the goals, adding value in key priority areas and contributing to the essential long-term outcomes. Lack of a proper strategy may potentially result in ad hoc improvements that are not meeting the critical needs of the overall organisation.
So in terms of strategic planning, what does good look like? The following are 10 elements that represent sound principles to be taken into consideration when developing a strategic plan:
Element #1: Critical Reflection
Sometimes before you go forward, you have to look back. In Japanese this is known as ‘hansei’ or the ability to deeply and critically reflect, typically on several fronts: ‘where have you been?’, ‘where are you now?’, and ‘where are you heading’? This includes an honest assessment of problem areas and changes taking place which need to be addressed, both internally and externally. If there was failure, success can come as long as learning takes place. (…)
Element #2: The Power of a Simple Message
A clear vision can provide succinct clarity to where an organisation intends to go, and it does not have to be fancy. I know a retired Vice President who had a very consistent and simple mantra that he repeated on almost a daily basis: ‘Low Cost’. This made the priority very clear and concise. (…)
Element #3: Marathon Thinking
This may seem obvious, but the person who wants to win a marathon needs to possess a fine balance of long-term strategy and shorter-term tactics to overcome the challenge. Some people call this walking with one leg and running with the other. In any case, long-term thinking needs to be an essential ingredient of any solid strategy. Without a long horizon, an organisation is doomed to an endless cycle of short-term gyrations. There are several points to mention here:
• Balance the Forest and the Trees – A good strategy will both zoom out to the big picture and zoom in to the specifics needed to achieve it. (…)
• Pace Yourself – The smart marathoner will sometimes slow down even when he or she has abundant energy. Not only do they not take their eye or mind off the end goal, but they are also very aware of all the evenly spaced, smaller milestones that are needed to reach so they can get to the end. (…)
Element #4: Sense of Reality
A strategy is not worth much if it does not accurately reflect the reality of the situation – the good, the bad and the ugly. It is also not going to help much if the strategy stretches the organization well beyond its means or outlines completely unrealistic and unattainable objectives. It is OK to develop stretch targets but they should still be realistic. There is an important concept related to this element:
• Avoid Fluff – Vague and ‘wishy-washy’ language should always be avoided. The strategy is not a marketing campaign – it is a structured plan to move the organization forward. Language and actions identified should be crisp, concise, clear, direct and specific.
Element #5: Less is More
This has been said many times, but a strategic plan should focus on the Critical Few. A plan should outline what the organization should not do just as much as it articulates what it should do. There are many cases where successful organizations have seen improved results from paring down their strategic goals. (…)
Element #6: Balanced Stakeholder Listening
A great strategy reflects the voices of all the key stakeholders of an organisation, in particular the Employees and the Customers, who often get forgotten. There is a famous quote that says ‘The greatest tool you have is to listen’, yet many strategies are developed in a relative vacuum. To properly consider all the various voices, both internal and external, a great deal of listening, balancing and prioritising is required. Sometimes it not clear who all the key stakeholders are, and in this case a Stakeholder Prioritisation tool can be used. For this element, there are a few important concepts to mention here:
• Coherent Alignment – The strategy should align and bind the whole organization together. While each function or department will have to develop their own specific plans, these should receive inspiration, purpose and direction from the main strategy. (…)
• Institutionalised Social Responsibility – Whether you call it CSR, Sustainability or Social Development, the point here is that this should be part and parcel of the strategy, not ‘that other thing’ that is done on an ad hoc basis or whenever an organisation feels guilty or needs PR points. (…) Ideally, the strategy will encompass all three pillars of the Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet and Profit.
Element #7: Actionable Content
This is the critical link to Process Excellence. The strategic plan should be detailed enough to either specifically outline actions required to meet the goals, or be able to lead directly to such actions. The action plans identified will likely be high-level and not necessarily answer the ‘hows’ but certainly describe the ‘whats’ that are needed to move the organization ahead. (…)
Element #8: Energetic Deployment
A great strategy does not just remain stuck in a powerpoint slide, but gets effectively and passionately deployed to every level of the organisation. If there is a function or team that is disengaged from the planning activity, or not involved in its execution, then the strategy is a failure. (…) One critical aspect is the following concept:
• Avoid the Ivory Tower Syndrome – a good friend of mine reminded me of the disastrous but not uncommon phenomenon of organisations keeping their strategic planning activity entirely within their executive ranks, ignoring the power of the their own people to help shape, validate and implement the initiatives that are required for them to reach the next level of achievement. The best plans are made with broad participation, contain feedback loops to incorporate the inputs of employees and other key stakeholders and are communicated thoroughly and frequently to all parts of the organisation.
Element #9: Fanatic Follow-through
Strategies are intended to be used, not mounted on a gilded frame to be admired from time to time. (…) Here are the key points related to the subject of Follow-Through:
• Built-in Flexibility – Some strategies are not followed-through on because they were designed to be too rigid and/or complex. A clear sign of this is an overly automated planning system where it becomes extremely painful to make any adjustments to the plan. Contrary to some popular beliefs, plans should be written in soft clay rather than etched in hard stone. It is perfectly OK to adjust the strategy during the year based on changes in organisational dynamics or the external environment, as long as the revisions are in support of the overall vision and purpose and are agreed to by the relevant team.
• Strong Governance & Discipline – Who will review the strategy, how frequently and by which means? These are basic questions to ask when designing a proper governance process. Here are two of the common mistakes made in this regard. One is to lump together Strategic Reviews with Operational Reviews. Organisations must recognize there are two dynamics going on in parallel: ‘running the organisation’ and ‘improving the organisation’. They are related but each needs its own time slot or the operational issues could easily smother the strategic reviews. The other is a failure to assign an Owner to the governance process. While it is undoubtedly the top leader’s role to ultimately own the strategy, somebody needs to organise the reviews, take charge of the planning document, and help to ensure follow-up items are managed properly.
Element #10: Living & Breathing the Strategy
Solid follow-through is more than governance reviews and scorecard updates. It needs the leadership to be absolutely committed to and thoroughly passionate about the strategy. Leaders should be talking the ‘language’ of the strategy on a daily basis. When even the employees are talking about it frequently, this is when the plan has become institutionalised and permeates every level of the organisation. The strategy should be thoroughly baked into the product/service plan, the communications plan, the marketing plan, the people plan, the process improvement plan, the budget plan and the operational plan.
This list of Elements of a Great Strategy is by no means exhaustive, but the intention was to provide a basic outline of the key ingredients needed to formulate an effective and useful strategic plan for any kind of organisation.
As was mentioned, a successful strategy is not only one that is intelligently designed and well-constructed, but also inclusive of all stakeholders, effectively deployed and governed with a nearly fanatical level of discipline and passion.