The Strategy Clarification Process, Part 2

A few months ago I completed a round of in-depth research on the current state of business architecture practices. One of the areas I looked into was the business architect’s role in strategy execution. I found that most established and successful business architecture practices are deeply engaged in developing their organization’s strategy execution process. This is one of a series of posts to help identify and clarify the details of the strategy execution process. 

The Strategy Execution Process

The strategy-to-execution process provides a structured approach to clarifying, communicating, implementing, and managing strategy. The first element in this process is strategy clarification. In my last post I discussed the first six steps in clarifying strategy:

Step 1: Locate “strategy” documents
Step 2: Rationalize the data
Step 3: Structure the data 
Step 4: Articulate the model 
Step 5: Management review #1

Here are the final strategy clarification steps

Step 6: Identify conflicts, overlaps, and implications – This step is likely to be the most time consuming as it requires a significant amount of data gathering and analysis. Working with operational managers, clarify what the strategies might mean to them. Will they drive simple or radical changes? Will they require significant funding? Will they require hiring new skill sets? What current change work will the new strategies conflict with? Are their significant cultural or political challenges? How often will the same set of resources be required to work on multiple strategies? Taken as a whole, how similar or different are the individual strategies and goals? What work needs to be stopped or reduced to align with the new strategies? Keep the work at a high level. You are trying to clarify intent not create an implementation plan. Use the information here to guide your clarification and elaboration of the original strategy model.

Step 7: Clarify strategy impact – Using the data collected in the previous step, create supplemental strategy clarification models. Value maps (also called strategy canvases or focus maps) along with a five action framework can be used to clarify the implication of the stated goals. The number one challenge of getting new strategies off the line is identifying what is not going to be done so that resources are available for the new work. The five action framework identifies what actions to create, increase, keep the same, reduce, or eliminate. Other models such as strategy maps and value streams may also be used to clarify what the strategy means to the organization.

Step 8: Assemble your strategy document – Integrating the work from the previous four steps, create a concise strategy document. The document should be short, five to ten pages, certainly no more than twenty. If it takes more than that create an appendices with supporting data. Define each goal and strategy clearly, note enablers and hurdles, and objectively describe general challenges. If there are significant issues with the strategies as they are defined, such as major conflicts, make recommendations for how to solve them. The goal here is to create a senior management level document that says: “This is what we heard, and this is what we think it means.”

Step 9: Final management review – Review your final work with senior managers. The goal is to walk away with 100% agreement that your strategy document accurately reflects their strategic intent and organizes their strategies, goals, objectives, etc. into a model that they endorse. This may take more than one meeting as they tweak your work. If it does, come back with revisions quickly to keep the momentum. The questions you want to ask the management team in this step are: “Does this accurately and completely reflect your thinking?” “Did we illuminate the strategy in a way that will resonate with your peers and subordinates?” “Are you willing to promote this view of your strategy?”

Step 10 Test your results – Take your finalized document and review with a wide variety of people across and down the organization. It doesn’t have to be a large number of people, diversity matters more than quantity. The questions you are asking here are: “Do you understand what your leadership team is trying to do?” “What is your interpretation of the strategy?” “Does this document help you think about what you should change (and perhaps not change) in your own organization or activity set?” One challenge in this step is to clarify the difference between understanding and agreement. People don’t have to agree with the strategy though it is beneficial if they do, but they do need to understand it or you have more work to do.

Strategy clarification output

The output of this stage of the strategy execution process is a clear, concise, and complete illumination of management’s strategic intent that they endorse. It clarifies WHAT the organization wants to accomplish. It does not provide the organization with detailed guidance on HOW to get there though it should provide some general guardrails. The next few stages of the strategy execution process will do that.

The bottom line:

Strategy clarification is the essential first step of creating a well-designed strategy-to-execution process. It creates the platform for aligned change activity by ensuring everyone has a clear picture of the goal.

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