What is a strategy?
Our organisation has a purpose we’re continuously striving for, and a set of values we operate within. We have infinite possibility ahead of us but we have finite time, people, resources and money. We can see a hundred paths from here stretching out to the horizon, all potentially leading us towards organisational success. Which paths do we take?
Taking all 100 is a recipe for certain failure. Our attention split, our teams divided, and only a fraction of our finances available for investment, all initiatives will fail.
A strategy narrows down those hundred paths to just one and clearly describes the path to everyone involved. We’re setting a focal point for everyone to fully invest in and rally behind. We’ve decided we will not go down other paths in the short term because being focused and united will give us the greatest chance of success.
It provides a clear and compelling case as to why this path is the best one for us. A great strategy will explain why we’re not taking other paths that many people in the organisation think are obvious to take—this is important for organisational buy-in. We’ll need to research a selection of these potential paths to be able to confidently demonstrate we’ve found the best one.
Having painted a picture of the path, it outlines what success looks like in the time period that the strategy covers. We’ll need some quantitative and qualitative metrics that indicate success. Financial metrics are always important—money is the fuel that makes organisations run—but equally so are metrics that indicate we are living our organisation’s purpose and moving towards its stated vision.
Hopefully there are milestone metrics or checkpoints set across the time period so if the environment changes or we made the wrong bet, we can identify it early and pivot to a different strategy. There’s no shame in revisiting our decisions when new information comes to light.
Finally, there is clarity about who is accountable for and who is involved in the strategy’s success. There is a risk someone sees the strategy presentation and comes to the conclusion that they are not required and can continue to focus on their non-strategic work.
Following on from strategy are initiatives—the explanation of exactly how we’re going to do it. Some strategy documents contain initiatives as well, but if you do I recommend you keep them high level. You’ll want to get the whole team or organisation involved in proposing appropriate initiatives, using everyone’s experience and knowledge.
I hope that was useful! Let me know if it was, or if I’m missing something important.