What are the 5 Steps to Clarify and Design Your Business Strategy?

[Updated April 6th, 2021]

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 architect’s role in business 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, clarify, and design a strategy execution process. 

The Strategy-to-Execution Process

The Strategy-to-Execution process provides a structured approach to clarifying, communicating, implementing, and designing a strategy. The goal of this strategy clarification process is to ensure the organization focuses on developing high-value business capabilities and making investments that optimize value.

Implementing the Strategy-to-Execution process ensures that executive intent is translated throughout the entire organization consistently which results in focused, coordinated, and synergistic actions. There are six basic elements of designing a business strategy to execute. The first step is Strategy Clarification which can be accomplished through the following steps:

Step 1: Locate “Strategy” Documents

The unfortunate truth is that few organizations have well-defined, rationalized, and articulated strategy documents. Some have none at all, but most have “strategy indicators” buried in a wide variety of documents. Some places to look for documentation to design a strategy are:

– Corporate annual reports

– Mission, vision, and goals presentations

– Product strategy documents

– Departmental planning documents

– Roadmap presentations

– Project plans

– Public relations and marketing documents

– Support services strategy documents (IT, HR, Finance, etc.)

Be sure to check with your Investor Relations team if you have one! They often have a publicly-shared perspective of the company strategy. It is not uncommon to find hundreds of pages of strategy-related documents.

Step 2: Rationalize and Read the Strategy-Related Content

Once you have located a set of strategy design documents, read though them to identify “directional” statements. Many will not be ‘strategies’ (even some that are labeled as such) but they will help you identify, clarify, and design unstated or poorly designed business strategies. Directional statements include:

– Vision declarations, aspirations, and good intentions

– Problem definitions, missions, and goals

– Project descriptions, challenges, and needs

Typically, directional business strategy statements will comprise only one to five percent of the document.

Step 3: Structure the Strategy Data

Find the relationships among the parts you identified in Step 2 and organize them into a cohesive model. At this point, I usually use short names for each element similar to the way you create short names for business capabilities. It is fine to have some hanging elements that don’t integrate such as a set of goals with no corresponding strategy.

I typically create a hierarchical structure such as Vision, Goals, Strategies, Objectives, Initiatives, and Projects. However, the only objective here is to create a model that helps illuminate and design strategic intent and identify the glaring strategy delivery gaps.

Step 4: Articulate the Strategy Model

Refer back to the original strategy documents, then create a more detailed definition of each of the elements from Step 3 to create more context. Definitions might include elaborating on the name, change drivers, impacted organizations, results clarification, or document of origin. The goal of this Step 4 is to create a short summary document that, along with the cohesive strategy model from Step 3, provides a clear picture of what you understand.

It doesn’t have to be complete or accurate, just a well-articulated presentation of how you have clarified and designed the business strategy based on the information you currently have.

Step 5: Management Review #1

Review your strategy clarification document with senior managers. The idea here is to play back what you have inferred from the data you have. Ask the management team:

– Did I miss any important documents?

– Did I interpret them correctly?

– Does the model make sense?

– What did we get right and what did we get wrong?

– What should we add, delete, or change to clarify and design the strategy-related document more accurately to reflect your thinking?

The goal of this step is to engage the management team early in the process without challenging them – that comes later – and to clarify their strategic intent.

So what is the bottom line?

Strategy clarification is the essential first step of creating a well-designed Strategy-to-Execution process. It helps identify valid approaches to strategy realization and execution, while offering guidance to the organization on how to operationalize and design a business strategy. 

Talk to an expert on strategy execution today to take our Enterprise Fitness Assessment to clarify your strategy and current state!

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