Stale and fluffy strategy
A big missing piece in most businesses I work with is that there are few, if any, times and places set aside for adequate strategic thinking. What most companies call “Strategic Planning” is something that they do once a year, usually for a day or two. The result of the full day session is often a lengthy report with a whole bunch of fluff. The fluff that actually never gets adequately implemented. There is nobody driving the alignment. Moreover, given how quickly market dynamics change, regardless of your industry, the strategy gets old and stale very quickly.
Who keeps strategy fresh?
To be an industry leader in any sector, one’s strategy must always be fresh and alive. This requires continual review and renewed thinking. Leaders must establish intentional time and space to review strategy and keep it current and relevant thoughout the fiscal year. We support Jim Collins ideas around the “Strategic Thinking Council.” This Council; made up of a maximum of 5 individuals; should connect once per week. The meeting is only to discuss strategy and is a maximum of 60 minutes, preferably less. This is not a meeting for updates or for problem solving on issues. Rather, this is where the strategic minds in the organization can strategize together. This is different than an executive team meeting and it is not about execution planning – just strategic thinking.
What does fresh strategy look like?
A client once said to me, “What would be talk about?”. Here is the thing…if your strategic leaders are functioning as they should, there should be lots to discuss. For example, your strategic thinkers should be speaking on a weekly basis to employees, customers and other externals such as competitors. These conversations should extract insights and ideas on the current marketplace. Why are your strategic leaders not doing this? If it is because they are bogged down with daily problem solving and operational challenges then this is reason for concern.
One great way of structuring this weekly session is by utilizing Ogilvy and Mather’s 4 E’s. Note that this has replaced what many of us used to call the 4 P’s. At the end of the day, this council is really discussing marketing as marketing equals strategy to a great extent.
The four E’s of marketing
- Experience – “Product” is no longer sufficient. It’s not about the product, it’s about considering the “buyer” journey related to your brand. Think about the full experience
- Everyplace – “Place” is no longer sufficient. Figure out new ways of getting to your buyers – not just TV and print. We no longer interrupt customers, we intercept them where they are at…where is that? Get your brand to your buyer.
- Exchange – “Price” is no longer sufficient. Determine the value of your customers – their loyalty over a lifetime – their time, their attention, their engagement, their permission.
- Evangelism –“Promotion” is no longer sufficient. Consider creating a purpose, brand and customer experience that is so powerful that they want to engage with you and tell others
Strategy happens to be top of my mind this morning as tomorrow I’ll be chairing the first ever weekly Strategic Thinking Council for a new client of ours. The group of five that will be on the call are spread out all over North America. They often don’t speak to each other in meaningful ways (strategically) for extended periods of time. This new space and new discipline of seeding strategic thinking will lead to new and brilliant actions that will keep the strategy fresh. Not long ago we worked with this client to build their first ever one page strategic plan. Tomorrow they will learn that this plan with fantastic strategy is already a little less than crisply fresh.
- Set up a Strategic Thinking Council – no excuses – the best business leaders in the world have well established the necessity.
- In your first meeting, review the extent to which these strategic leaders are actually in touch on a weekly basis with the marketplace such that they have new insights to fuel strategy.
- Adjust as required.
- If you need help establishing and putting the right rhythms in place for your council, contact us.