The First S - Strategize
As much as you may want to get into action right away and deliver results, it’s always beneficial to step back and holistically evaluate the business so you can elect to tackle the most relevant issues in ranking order. Otherwise, you may get caught in a vicious circle of tactics dictating your strategy rather than the other way around.
My common phrase is, “Let’s slow down temporarily so we can go faster.” This frustrates some of my clients until they realize they have not been walking the talk. Slowing down and looking at the business holistically is the first necessary step in your journey.
Here are the three steps that may help put what I mean in perspective:
Setting your Corporate, Business, and Product Strategy through Vision, Mission, and Purpose while visualizing your endpoint: why and what
This step is as fundamental as understanding a person's DNA. You don’t do it for the sake of doing it; you do it with a clear purpose. Before deciding on how you’ll do what, you need to make it clear why you’re doing what in the first place. “Just because” (a standard answer, by the way) is not a good one. The step of clarifying the why before the what helps align stakeholders and constituents on a vision with purpose and unites them to agree upon what success and end-point will look like. You want to create a pull strategy rather than a push among internal and external customers and constituents. Overall, this work helps you reach alignment at corporate, business unit, within, and cross-functional team levels so your actions gain meaningful traction and momentum with a lowered risk of someone sabotaging your efforts later on.
If you’re the CEO or COO of the company, aligning your compass and pointing your company in that direction will be the first starting point. Otherwise, you’re not doing justice to yourself or the organization. Remember, like your DNA, your strengths and weaknesses permeate the organization and produce ripple effects across all levels, either producing or hindering the results. Being a true servant leader, you need to be in (almost) complete alignment with the corporate vision, mission, and purpose. This way, your heart, mind, and soul are all aligned with your actions and communications. Your walk-the-talk will authentically come to life. Wouldn’t you agree that following an authentic leader is more appealing and satisfying for teams than the alternative?
You start your fundamental work by setting the corporate strategy. Carefully answer the following question: Is your company organized as a Sales, Product Marketing, or Engineering-driven entity? It’s Sales-driven if focused on revenues, Engineering-driven if focused on product features, and Product Marketing-driven if focused on delivering the optimal margin–revenue balance as a result of the clearly defined unique value proposition that comes with a sustainable competitive advantage. With my 40 years of experience in various industries, I can confidently say that many companies fail to understand their characteristic differences or how much profound cultural change it takes to shift from one to the other.
Business Strategy comes hand in hand with Product Strategy. They support the Corporate Strategy. All three form the fundamental elements of a business plan. When I say “Product,” I’m referring to anything and everything that contributes to your competitive advantage. This can be not just a physical product or an app or both but also your service, your process, your IP, how you conduct your business, or even policies that differentiate you from others.
At the end of this first step, you should be able to answer the following key questions:
A detailed execution plan: How, who, and when, supporting What, and Why
The strategy is not set unless a business plan is thoroughly thought out, clearly and concisely written, and communicated. The goal is to clearly outline how, what, and why in a simple yet comprehensive Business Plan and share it within 20 minutes. Yes! You cover revenue and volume predictions with a top-down, sideways, and bottoms-up forecast, margin dollars, margin percentage, cash flow, development cost, break-even point, opportunity cost, ROI, risk analysis, and risk mitigation plans in 20 minutes (with most detail being in Appendix).
You may have a different method for capturing risk analysis and mitigation plans. Mine is the following 8M steps:
Manpower Do you have the right and enough resources?
Money Do you have enough capital to achieve your objectives now and in the future?
Material Do you have enough material to produce what you need now and in the future?
Method Do you have suitable & practical plans, policies, and procedures to scale your business?
Machine Do you have tools and machines to produce products & experiences?
Marketing Do you have the platform to promote your services when the time is right?
Measurements Do you have the basic KPIs to measure yourselves & partners against your goals?
Mother Nature Do you have protection against most uncontrollable events?
And, of course, you include a well-thought-out project plan that outlines the who and when.
OKRs, KPIs, and Prioritize each action with quantifiable benefits: Solidifying who and when
Once the plans are in place, you convert them to OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). OKRs set the stage, and KPIs measure if you’re on the right track. The ultimate purpose is to communicate what you set as Corporate, Business, and Product Strategy and ensure your objectives and goals support the strategy. At the same time, you measure the results to know if you’re on target to reach your set goals.
When you list your tasks/actions in your tactical implementations, you make sure you assign the right priorities to support your goals and rankings with clear roles and responsibilities as to who will be responsible for completing these actions, who has the ultimate accountability, who needs to be consulted so the activities can take place without repeats or delays, and who may get affected by the actions so they get informed. (RACI). This will set up the proper governance and assign clear ownership and accountability.
You’re off to a great start with Corporate Strategy -> Business Strategy -> Product Strategy -> Business Plan -> OKRs -> KPIs -> Execution Plan Task List with RACI.
Remember… all of these steps are to thoroughly plan and clearly communicate the reasons with complete alignment on why, what, how, who, and when BEFORE diving into the tactics.
Call us if you need support or expedite results.
Copyright © 2023 James Stanford
Additional Reading for this section:
True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Professor Bill George
The Corporate Mystic: A Guidebook for Visionaries with their feet on the ground by Gay Hendricks, Ph.D. and Kate Ludeman, Ph.D.
Corporate Strategy: Tools for Analysis and Decision-Making by Phanish Puranam and Bart Vanneste
Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard Rumelt
Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin
The Lean Product Playbook: How to Innovate with Minimum Viable Products and Rapid Customer Feedback by Dan Olsen
Measure What Matters, John Doerr