Strategy is about change. It describes the route an organisation needs to follow to end up in a better place. But often the nature of that ‘better place’ is unclear; if you don’t know where the strategy is taking you, the focus is on the travelling, not the arrival - it becomes a journey on a ‘road to nowhere’.
Making sure you're on the road to somewhere
In the 16 years 2GC has been helping organisations to improve how they manage the implementation of strategy, we’ve worked with many organisations where a lack of clarity about the ‘strategic destination’ of the organisation has made strategy implementation much harder to achieve than it needed to be.
Recent research has highlighted the importance to people of a clear connection between the present and a future state they want to achieve - without such a clear connection it is more likely that actions required to achieve that future state will be delayed - vis:
“People often delay taking action towards future events, finding the present more pressing and assuming that their future self can always take action later, only to find that time has run out,”
A Strategic Destination statement is a proven and robust way for a leadership team to build such a connection to the future, and a useful platform upon which to base your strategy implementation activities.
I think my organisation knows its strategic destination, but how can I check?
As the strategic lead in your organisation, one of the simple things you can do is to talk to your senior leadership team and ask them each to describe how, if the current strategy is implemented successfully, the organisation will be different in future. Compare the answers you get: do they sound like different versions of the same future state, or do they just sound different? If the leadership team is working from multiple views of the strategic destination, there is a risk that each will pull the organisation in a different direction, making strategy implementation harder than it should be and possibly making implementation of the strategy impossible.
Another approach, that is harder to do but can be very powerful, is to pull together as many of the elements of your organisation’s current strategic agenda as you can to produce a short description of the effect that each will have on the organisation if it is implemented successfully (an external organisation might have the best skills for this). Then combine all these descriptions to see what they ‘add up to’. More than once when 2GC has done this and shown the actual ‘destination’ to the leadership of an organisation who then concluded that the Strategic Destination was wrong and needed changing and fast!
How do I put these issues right - how do I set a true strategic destination for my organisation?
In most organisations building a true strategic destination statement is not that hard - it just needs doing. The leadership collectively know a huge amount about the capabilities of the organisation, the environment it is operating in, and the expectations of the organisation’s stakeholders. The challenge is more about helping these experts on your organisation’s strategic issues to articulate a description of the organisation’s Strategic Destination that they all agree on, and all have contributed to. There are a variety of alternative ways to do this, all of which involve activities that sooner or later get the organisation’s leadership team to discuss and agree on the content of a short written document that describes the future state they think the organisation needs to achieve if key stakeholder expectations are to be satisfied.
Articulating a strategic destination is central to the first step in 2GC’s ACME strategy implementation framework, and as a result 2GC has developed a powerful and effective set of practical and pragmatic steps to help management teams construct strategic Destination Statements. As part of this work, we have identified three key characteristics of a useful strategic Destination Statement:
- The strategic Destination Statement must clearly and explicitly explain what is required to satisfy the future expectations of the organisation’s key stakeholders.
- The strategic Destination Statement must describe a future state for the organisation that can be reached - which usually means one that contains plenty of descriptions of how various elements of the organisation will be at a specific future date - for example the organisation may have a strategic aim to become ‘market leader’ eventually - but how close to this goal will it be five years from now - and more importantly how much closer does it need to be for the leadership to be confident that the long term aim will be achieved?
- The strategic Destination Statement needs to be one that all of the leadership team believe in and are committed to achieving. The worst thing that can happen in complex organisations is for everyone to think that implementing the strategy is someone else’s job…
In developing your own Destination Statement, remember it is only useful if someone reads it - aim for a short document that highlights just the key changes needed.
A few years ago 2GC worked with a highly successful large organisation that was struggling to implement its strategy - a strategy articulated in a 100 page limited circulation PDF document that interviews suggested (unsurprisingly) almost no one in the leadership team had read completely…
Strategy implementation is hard, but doesn’t need to be.
In this series of five short features we are describing aspects of 2GC’s ACME strategy implementation framework. This simple, robust and effective framework has evolved from 2GC’s 16 years of practical work with organisations around the world and across many sectors, is grounded in strong management theories, and reflects best practice methods in the steps it describes.
To find out more about ACME and how it can transform your organisation’s strategy implementation success, read the other features in the series - previous articles are linked at the bottom of the page. For future articles, sign up to 2GC’s email update service, or follow our Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn pages to get notified as soon as they appear.