By Mike Loughrin, CEO for Transformance Advisors
This is the sixth article in our series on strategy execution.
Click here to start at the beginning.
For many organizations, there are six milestones for launching strategic initiatives.
In this article, we will look at the fifth milestone.
Chart Your Course
The second day of the offsite planning retreat is devoted to identifying strategic initiatives that are needed to fulfill the vision crafted the day before. For most organizations, you would be looking at 3 to 5 big picture initiatives that would take 6 to 18 months to accomplish.
Identifying something that can be done in 60 days is generally not a stand-alone strategic initiative. It very well may be a project that is just one part of a broader set of activities. In contrast, identifying something that will take 5 years is generally too much to focus on at one time. Achieving operational excellence may very well take 5 years. In this case, you would want strategic initiatives that focus on what you want to do now in terms of operational excellence. This could include targeting one product line or improving new product development.
During the planning retreat, you want the leadership team to assess the gap of where you are today and where your vision is for 5 to 10 years out. The question at hand is “what do we have to do to close this gap?” The answers tend to raise the quality of the debate.
Instead of “needing” to add 3 features to an existing product, what you really need is a high performance new product development process which can assess more ideas. The real need is to crank out more viable products which can be produced at low cost with exceptional quality.
Similar to the SWOT analysis, your leadership team will leverage brainstorming, discussion, and debate. Then, given a list of potential strategic initiatives, a tool like the 100-point exercise can be used to focus attention on the most desirable course of action.
3 to 5 Strategic Initiatives
In the end, your leadership team should have a solid list of 3 to 5 strategic initiatives. There will be some additional work after the planning retreat, but consensus should be achieved.
For many small and medium sized organizations, the first time through this process is the first time the leadership team has ever been on the same page in terms of what needs to happen.
What Not To Do
One final step before closing out the planning retreat is to review the current projects that are consuming resources and make a decision on what “not to do”. Many current projects should be stopped or wound down as soon as possible. Others will roll into the strategic initiatives, but may need some modification.
In the book, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, Gary Harpst advises us that the leadership team “has to make the tough decisions about how to allocate resources and what things to stop doing to free up resources to be used for executing their strategy.”
Milestone 5 is complete when:
- Three to five strategic initiatives have been identified. In most cases, a member of the leadership team will have been appointed the executive sponsor for each initiative. Following the planning retreat, there will be more analysis required to create a better definition for each one. The impact on resources will also drive the timing of the launch and scope of each initiative. It is not unusual for the bottom one or two initiatives to be delayed for a year and subject to reevaluation during the next planning cycle.
- A hit list is created on activities that need to stop. This does not mean they all stop the next day. It does mean that the status on each one needs to be reviewed and decisions made on getting them completed, stopping them, or reducing their scope. The resources now working on these activities will be required for the new strategic initiatives.