Your strategic wish is my delivery command

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‘Making it happen’ is often the hardest part of strategic planning.

The strategy has been formulated, after much analysis, assessment, debate and decision-making; the changes and actions required to implement the strategy have been planned; and there is a well-crafted document capturing all this that the Board has approved. The stage is set, the actors all lined up, everything is mapped out for how the strategic plan should be executed….but two years later there is a frustrating gulf between what should have happened and the actuality.

This failure to deliver strategy is widely recognised as one of the commonest problems experienced by organisations (there are many research studies and surveys that attempt to quantify this).  More practically relevant though is to ask ‘Why?’, and then ‘What can we do about it?’

In March 2022 collaborating with a colleague, David Dunning*, we organised an online event to explore this further (with the title I’ve used for this article). We planned some presentational input to stimulate discussion, with opportunities for those attending to contribute their experience and ideas. The event was enlightening: not only did nearly everyone who had booked attend ‘live’ on the day, but the discussion continued for 30 minutes after the scheduled end time (and could have continued for longer, so  engaged were people in the subject). So yes, there’s definitely a problem (there were 100 different ‘pain points’ raised, ranging across strategic management, integrated governance, operational delivery, resources and prioritisation, people and culture, and information).

What was clearly apparent was that the issues stretched across an organisation, and also across the strategic planning process: the problems weren’t so much in one area, rather than how the strategic management processes and all parts of the organisation actually work together. It is a cross-domain challenge, and requires an integrated solution.

Every organisation of course has its own current context, and its own specific issues: the first step is to identify these – through open conversations and objective assessment – and to help the organisation get a clear, shared understanding of this which they can use as a framework for action and develop a roadmap to address what has been identified.

This is a journey of improvement, building the organisation’s capabilities to manage and deliver strategy more effectively. It was clear from the discussion that getting commitment to embark on such a journey is essential, as is then having the drive to make those improvements.

It was a fascinating discussion – it is obviously a problem in many organisations, and one that people have a desire to tackle. What also struck me was:

  • every organisation’s situation is different – and so will be the issues and how it addresses these
  • it needs an organisation-wide perspective
  • it is a journey – learning and improving
  • it’s about strengthening the organisation’s capabilities (rather than a short-term fix).

From the discussion, making a start is the hardest part – getting the organisation to commit to the first step. It then becomes a journey of improvement, with the potential to strengthen the organisation’s capability to realise its desired strategy.

 

* David Dunning has a lot of experience in Portfolio, Programme and Project Management, as well as being a Board chairman and CEO (his expertise provides a stimulating complementary perspective  to my focus on organisational strategy). He has led a not-for-profit collaborative initiative to develop a ‘Business Integrated Governance’ (BIG) approach: there is a wealth of publicly available material and resources about this freely available at Praxis and the Core P3M Data Club

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