Achieve strategic business growth, follow these 8 steps:
Step 1: Define your vital few strategic objectives.
Step 2: Create detailed program plans for each.
Step 3: Prioritise resource allocation to deliver program plans.
Step 4: Establish clear accountable plan ownership.
Step 5: Stop less important business priorities & redirect resources to the vital few.
Step 6: Ensure company-wide awareness of the objectives and the strategies.
Step 7: Set & track progress against key performance indicators. Adapt as required.
Step 8: Widely and regularly communicate motivational progress to all employees.
Defining your top five vital few strategic business objectives will help you establish focus on them throughout your company and this will help to ensure you achieve them. The more you focus the more you are going to be able to put depth into what you do and in doing so create customer value and differentiation for your company that will help you win more business. Research by OnStrategy (formerly M3 Plans) illustrated that businesses with strategic plans, which will include the vital few business strategies, are 12% more profitable.
Clarity and focus also means that you aren't spreading yourself or your team too thin and wasting scarce company resources, people and money, on the less important things. If you take your marketing budget and spread it across many initiatives the impact is going to be superficial. Limit the spread and direct the funds to your priority items so that you can really make an impact with them.
It is hard to select the top five most important strategic objectives and stay focused on achieving them as typically there will be many stakeholders within your business who are accountable for a specific product, solution, service (the ‘product’ owners) or maybe the achievement of results in a market or country (the sales leaders). Each stakeholder needs to perform and they will look for resource support and investment to help them succeed. If you try to meet the individual needs of every single stakeholder your investment in each area will be small and so will the impact made.
I can hear you ask the question “but surely every person in the company is going to be working on something that contributes to the company’s success so they will need help to achieve this. If their area is not important to the company why not just stop it, take their resource and direct it to achieving one of the vital few objectives?”.
Sometimes the answer is that the company should do exactly what you are asking but for many reasons stopping something can be extremely hard especially when your customers maybe global or your competitors offer full portfolios and you need to do so too. Maybe previous markets, that are possibly declining, still have customers that need to be served and brand values that need to live and breathe throughout everything you do.
This is the paradox facing many businesses, how to professionally sustain what they have always done but create the bandwidth and resources to focus upon delivering the vital few strategic objectives key to their future. Businesses will adopt different approaches to try to address this and achieve the desired strategic focus. Examples include:
- Splitting the company into ‘old word’ and ‘new world’ and allocating available resources to each considering individual competencies. This establishes balanced focus on both areas as often it is the 'old world' income that will fund the 'new world' strategic growth.
- Transferring non-strategic existing business to existing channel partners where the strategic fit often offers enhanced value to those specific customers too.
- Selling what is now considered as a non-core or lower priority business line and redirecting the income from the disposal towards doubling-down on achieving the new vital few strategic objectives.
- Setting up empowered and agile cross-functional teams, operating at the side of the current business, that are responsible and accountable for delivering progress on the vital few strategic objectives.
Knowing your strategic priorities, focusing on them and resourcing them adequately is challenging. Using a common method of ranking all of your business initiatives (e.g. Sales, Net Present Value, Profit, Customer Satisfaction, etc.) will help you judge their relative importance aiding decision making and improving company focus on the things that really matter.
Even knowing relative priorities, stopping what a business as always done to focus on the new strategic objectives is easy-to-say but hard to achieve. Therefore, it can also be common that the business will try to keep doing what it did yesterday as well as trying to progress what it needs for tomorrow's success with similar levels of resourcing. This results in a thinning of focus, lack of depth in deliverables and organisational stress which in time can result in declining business results and limited strategic progress towards the desired future results.
Whatever strategy your business uses to help it achieve focus, what is really clear is that if you don’t focus on, and seriously resource, your new strategies they are likely to fail and the desired future of the business will just be a dream that is never realised. Focus will also help your reduce your marketing waste.
To help you stay focused put in-place program plans for each and every one of your top five strategic business objectives. These will contain the strategies to achieve your objectives and the actions to achieve your strategies. Each one should have an assigned fully accountable owner. Focus on the achievement of these program plans as if your life depended upon them as basically the future success of your business does!
For each of the strategic objectives set clear ‘balance scorecard’ type key performance targets and vigilantly track progress against each key performance indicator. Constantly adapt your strategies as required to determine and back the winning strategies that will realise your strategic vital few objectives.
Ensure all of your employees know your company’s top vital few strategic objectives and your target market segments too. The lack of a common vision across employees can result in initiatives and actions becoming fragmented and disconnected as everything is seen as a priority. This can result in limited resources being spread thinly across too many initiatives. The key strategies are often not known and are highly unlikely to be achieved. If the business doesn't know where it is going it highly unlikely to get there, as it doesn't know where there is. Also, once they are well-known they can be used by all employees to help make day-to-day decisions on their own priorities.
It is interesting that research by Metrus Group discovered that only 14% percent of employees understand the organisation’s strategy, and less than 10% percent of all organisations successfully execute the strategy. The full article can be read here.
As part of communicating your strategy also include your primary and secondary target markets. Understanding your target markets and the commercial opportunity within each is important if you are to exploit this opportunity. Focus enables building a depth of understanding of your chosen target markets and this understanding helps ensure winning strategies can be created that can make a real difference to your potential customers within these target markets and to your business success. If you don't know where the opportunity is, it is unlikely you are going to know in enough depth how you can go and win this business especially if the competition is strong.
Taking 8 steps can help you achieve strategic growth and future success.
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