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Successful Strategy

November 9, 2017 — Leave a comment

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I was in a meeting with a senior executive recently, when he shared his concern that the processes and approaches the company is using to develop the corporate strategy may not take the business forward as planned, but backward. As we discussed his challenges, there were some key gaps that the organization was likely to fall into that could easily be avoided with a strong planning process. So, here are a few of the more prominent reasons organizations fall into the strategic planning gap…How many of these are evident in your business?

Reason Number 1: Lack of leadership engagement

One important reason behind a company’s inability to create a visible and viable strategy is that, frequently, key senior leaders are not appropriately engaged in the development process. This frequently means that critical success factors are not considered, priorities are unclear, and incomplete strategies are developed. Leaders must immerse themselves in the process to understand how the gears of the business engage – how their domain aligns to and fits with the other critical pieces within the corporation.  Critical insights and knowledgeable contributions regarding all aspects of the business will provide the pivot point for the strategic planning process – key decisions emerge from a compilation and understanding of leader’s perspectives. Companies often believe that strategic plans can be developed in one or two day strategic planning sessions – this is simply not true. Strategic planning is a dedicated process that is developed over a period of time with all senior leaders engaged and participating – not to mention, an ongoing process that drives the ability to stay ahead of the competition.  Without a strong process for engaging leaders and formulating strategic plans as a unit, companies often end up with plans that are meaningless from a strategic point of view.

Reason Number 2: Leaders lose sight of the difference between strategy and planning

Very often I come across companies that confuse strategy with planning.  The annual financial and operating planning process drives many corporate strategy exercises – which is a backward premise. They are different activities and should be treated as such: strategy is about developing a framework that drives future actions and decisions; planning is about resource allocation. Critical strategic decisions don’t fit within the annual planning timetable and neither should the strategy development process. When strategy and planning overlap, the plans thrust upon the organization are anything but strategic in nature. Upon closer examination one may find that these plans are (at best) a collection of tactical plans targeting operational efficiency – operational efficiency IS NOT by it’s nature strategic.

Reason Number 3: Too much data, too little insight vs. too much insight, too little data

Few companies have a structured process for scanning the environment and observing emerging trends. There is either an information drought or an overload of information – generally, there is no middle ground. When there is information, often companies do not know how to draw any strategic meaning from it. In the absence (or lack of usability) of relevant data, assumptions are made that may not reflect the reality of the environment, which means a rapid decline in credibility and relevance of the strategic plan. While it is definitely not advisable to engage in paralysis  by analysis – it is important to gather as many facts as you can, within a limited amount of time, apply what you know, and move forward with a decision.  It is key insights based on the information you have (depending on risk factors, often 80% is good enough), not excessive data, that will drive a successful strategy.

Reason Number 4: Insufficient alignment, commitment and communication.

When the process is structured correctly, the leadership team has invested significant time creating the strategy together. A common result is that they come to believe that the strategic intent is clear to everyone across the organization. In most companies this is far from reality, and the strategy is left to interpretation. This creates organizational misalignment, with group or divisional strategies not fitting comfortably within the whole.  The strategy process should include ensuring that executive alignment and commitment is strong, but also that sufficient time and effort is spent on communicating the strategy throughout the entire organization to ensure there is understanding, buy-in, and integration across the company. Problems often surface when there is a lack of alignment and integration – strategically, operationally, and interpersonally.

As an organization continues to deliberate strategy as an abstract concept or simply a mandated process, the typical result is that strategic plans are not living documents and do not deliver the desired results.  Any one of a million reasons can derail the strategic planning process. As this repeatedly occurs,  the concept of strategic planning is eroded to such an extent that the exercise is taken up just as another routine, isolated from the business of the company. The strategy process should bring rigor and challenge to the leadership team’s thinking – it should result in a strategic plan that is alive in everyone’s mind, engages community ownership, and provides a driving force that guides the company steadily toward competitive advantage.

Is your strategic planning process is on track?  Here are some potential indicators:

  • Are all of the organizational, divisional and team leaders engaged (at the appropriate levels)?
  • Is there a clear understanding, and separation, of strategy and planning? Is strategic planning a dedicated, ongoing process?
  • Is there good balance and perspective between data collection and business insight?
  • Do all the key players understand their place in the strategy and how it all fits together as a complete puzzle?
  • Is every leader, at every level, committed to the strategy? Is it a cohesive group effort?
  • Is there a strong communication component within the strategic plan?
  • Is the strategic plan a living, breathing document that everyone is working toward achieving?

There is only one way to a great strategic plan –  a dedicated, integrated strategic planning process that ensures a climate of trust and the innovative business ideas of leaders.

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you mind the strategic planning gaps in your organization. Please feel free to contact me at  Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back soon for the next installation of Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders.

As those who have been reading this blog for a while know, my passion is global business. I love to travel and interact with different people from different places.  Everywhere I go (and I have lived, worked or traveled to over 70 countries), I truly enjoy observing distinct cultures and taking away lessons learned from each place and every culture I engage with.  In

Vienna

fact, a good deal of my life’s work is based on this very concept.

This summer, while attending Board Meetings in Vienna, I had the privilege of engaging with several colleagues – global executives and academic experts – to discuss some rather interesting views relating to the differences in business perspectives between Eastern Europe and the rest of the world.  It became interesting as the various views on doing business in different regions shifted… but today, Vienna:

Vienna is a beautiful city filled with exquisite buildings, powerful opera halls, sophisticated clothing and incredible art. The Viennese people themselves, without a doubt, embody “Culture” with a Capital C. From high art to street art, from music to theater, dance to interpretive movement, architecture to fashion – it’s all there…and it’s simply a way of life.

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Innovation.   Integration.   Motivation.

Once again, three simple words…

However, each of these is extremely complex and rarely executed.

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In order to win the war for global domination, we must engage both our colleagues and our employees on three key battlefields: Innovation, Integration and Motivation. This week, we will address the second of these combat zones: Integration.

The rapid pace of change and the growing number of collaborative technology solutions has enabled virtual work while the demand for skills from around the world has made it a necessity. However, collaborative teamwork is not intuitive. It’s far more than dealing with technology and time zones – it is about people and the value that cross-cultural, cross-functional integration can bring to the organization. Continue Reading…

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Building and maintaining a strong, resilient organizational culture is one of the few phenomena that is truly all inclusive. Creating a successful company ethos depends on the positive collision of the right people (at all levels) and the right context. But what does it actually take to create a sustainable, remarkable company culture? The answer is complex, so over the next two weeks, we will look at culture first from a larger organizational perspective… and then again at ground level.

“It’s complicated” … A common response to developing organizational culture.

The lack of a clear, simple response as to how to build and sustain organizational culture is the reason most companies don’t have a great culture. All leaders theoretically want a great culture… and believe, if they repeat it enough, it will magically happen. However, wanting an amazing corporate culture and being willing (and committed) to creating one are two vastly different things.

Why? It’s just not obvious how to create a great organizational culture. After helping many clients through this exact same challenge, we know that there are some critical components in developing and maintaining an exceptional company culture.

Continue Reading…

What Is Global Anyway?

October 15, 2014 — 1 Comment

I was recently speaking at a conference and I was asked about a term that is near and dear to who I am – Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders. You will see (or hear) it in almost everything I do – you will hear me refer to it when I speak publically… in general conversations… and when I write. You see it on my blog header… on our membership site (The Global LABB or GLABB)… and on our corporate site, as well.  Although I refer to “Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders” frequently, this was the first time I can remember that an audience member stood up and asked about LABB in a public forum. I found this so interesting – it is so much a core part of my being… yet I realized I had never stopped to actually define it for others outside of myself and those closest to me.  I have been unfair. I will try to remedy my faux pas through not only explaining my terminology as a core component of myself, but also by defining each piece of it from my view of the world over the next few weeks.

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So, I will begin by talking a little about history and about the definition, my definition, of Global…

Those of you who have followed me from the early days know I have had a very unique and fortuitous background. My “global career” actually started at a fairly tender age. My father, a Fire Chief, began moving our family around the world – exposing us to language, food and all manner of culture when I was just twelve years old (and I was none too appreciative at the time!). We did not typically live with other Americans – we lived with the locals… as the locals (again, not perceived as a plus as a teenager). In Spain, we played with the local children in the abandoned plaza de toros and ate in the local ventas, while in the Philippines we hiked deep into the jungle with the aborigines, exchanged candy for hand-made weapons and attended indigenous festivals in the local villages… just a few examples. I unknowingly learned what it meant to be a global citizen and what it was to See The Forest Through The Trees… forming my earliest impressions of local innovation, and how, when taken in context, it can be leveraged for global knowledge. I understood and integrated with the local flavor, while realizing the value of global scalability. Funny how things you learn come back into focus again and again throughout your life if you pay attention… Continue Reading…

Google… On Steroids

September 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

When my daughter, Savannah, was in elementary school she was quite the know it all and acquired the nickname “Google” because she would start nearly every sentence with, “Did you know…” followed by whatever fact fell from her rather significant brain and out of her very pretty, little mouth. Still today, she is not so different… if occasionally more contained.

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As I think about our world today, how we are made up, and the rapidly expanding global marketplace, perhaps we (a little like Savannah) have become Google incarnate:

Google is a vast pool of knowledge – broader and deeper than most of us can even begin to fathom – while, as humans, we are a vast pool of diversity and complexity that spans the globe. We take in information, aggregate it… and determine how we will present it (or not). That is not to say we necessarily understand it…

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