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How to Achieve Best Practice Reckoning with Strategy Roadmaps?

A journey cannot be embarked upon without a roadmap, just as organisation’s cannot achieve their business goals without Strategy Roadmaps. Putting strategy into actionable planning can be difficult. That is because there is no definition of what success even looks like for both the organisation and its people – yet strategy is simultaneously contained and empowered by the reality of a timeline.

Many organisations repeat the same mistake – talking about strategy methodology before they define clear goals, objectives, and work initiatives. That is because too many teams jump straight to the “how” before they agree on the “why” and the “what”. Yet, typically this happens in many enterprise businesses because there is a lack of clarity and transparency across the organisation, especially as it relates to strategy. Inevitably with poor Strategy Planning tools in the mix.

Strategic roadmapping should involve deep analysis and planning as well as deep collaboration within your organisation. It is important to know the inputs of your Executive Management Team, C-Suite Executives and Senior Managers to be able to build (and execute) a robust Strategy Roadmap that includes insights from key stakeholders and connect it to a higher-level vision. Bringing strategy to the front with a transparent approach, helps lay out a course for the team to follow and includes a timeline as to when the business objectives (set and agreed) will be completed.

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More than ever, organisations need to devote time to strategy. The concept of agility is a great attribute, but it is even more powerful when paired with preparedness. But achieving strategic preparedness takes a structured, organised thought process to identify and consider potential threats, disruptions, and opportunities—which is Strategic Planning and creating a better future-proof plan.

The problem is not with the Strategic Planning, but it is the lack of an effective planning process. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, the organisations that maximise the most benefit from their planning activities have implemented four (4) common points:

Understanding the thought process about strategy at different time horizons is a critical component, since each has different goals but requires different approaches, different frequencies, and the involvement of different stakeholders. Simplistic frustration and problems concerning Strategic Planning processes arises when organisations try to address their long-term, medium-term, and short-term strategies through a single funnel strategy (and inflexible process).

Many leading organisations approach strategy across three (3) time horizons:

The purpose of long-term Strategic Planning should be to define, validate, or re-define the vision, mission, and direction of the organisation. It is about analysing potential new products, services, markets, and processes as part of your plan.

  • How will technology advances (including AI) alter the business environment?
  • What strategic risks and opportunities are revealed when considering future initiatives and other scenarios?
  • Will the organisation’s traditional business model remain competitive or be compromised due to inherent change?
  • What new opportunities (including market share, products, and services) could arise and provide the organisation with an opportunity to win market penetration?

It is the belief for organisations to challenge and redefine the boundaries of their market, competitors, and the traditional rules of the game. A projected vision for the future around which the organisation can align its people for a multi-year journey and perspective from which to consider how to develop project skills and the business brand into new domains.

The purpose of medium-term Strategic Planning should be to identify the steps necessary to realise the strategic vision – typically over a three (3) to five (5) year period. The key focus is on developing clear, actionable Business Plans that describe the multi-year strategic initiatives required to transform the organisational vision into value.

  • Which customers, markets, and geographic segments should be prioritised?
  • What is the innovation strategy and roadmap?
  • Where and when will we need strategic partnerships and acquisitions?
  • What new business models or changes to the current business models will be required?

The purpose of short-term Strategic Planning should be to challenge the current strategy, evaluate progress on the present business performance and for the next six (6) months. It pinpoints issues and opportunities, but then identifies improvement plans that can be implemented and accomplished quickly. Thereby, exploring options to accelerate execution and action.

  • Is execution above, at, or below the Strategy Plan—and why?
  • Does the Strategy Plan and its strategic assumptions remain valid?
  • How should the organisation adapt to changes within the current business environment?
  • What are Executive Management’s innovative ideas to strengthen or adjust the Strategy Plan?

What is critical is to encourage cross-functional collaboration with your stakeholders by increasing creativity (with real dialogue) and to avoid a budget-centric process that focuses on the numbers. Progressive organisations breakdown the process into several stages – progressing from a review of the critical and emerging strategic issues, then towards a detailed plan for the year (and beyond).

A brilliant strategy is worthless without great execution. In fact, execution is so important to strategy because – 90% of organisations fail to reach their strategic goals all because of poor execution.

Creating a great foundation for ensuring strong strategy execution is about adopting “best practice” of engaging a diverse team of stakeholders in planning. Then, assigning the execution of initiatives, allocating adequate resources, and accompanied by timelines, goals, and clear expectations of delivery milestones. This diversity helps to establish accountability and secure early organisational buy-in to your various planning teams and backed up with ongoing dialogue, a strong Communication Plan, and progress reviews which are all essential elements of change execution.

Question-driven strategic dialogue is inherently an iterative process.

With determining the Strategic Planning process (year-to-year), a more sustainable solution is to follow the same strategic process but to refresh the framework with different questions each year. This approach helps to break the abstract compromise between process efficiency and fresh (but methodical) thinking. By focusing each standard process on new questions, the strategic dialogue now escalates to being innovative, challenging, and will remain rich because your participants will have new analyses to consider and fundamentally different ideas to discuss.

However, the success of this unique approach will always be heavily dependent on the quality of the “right” questions. The “right” questions help Senior Managers stretch their thinking beyond the current boundaries of their day-to-day activities and towards alignment to organisational goals and objectives. This supports the Executive Management Team strategic vision and helps with understanding the Communication Plan with direction (and focus) on execution of the Strategy Plan.

  • Have the Executive Management Team and C-Suite Executives team engage in a Strategic Workshop to articulate and prioritise – but never debate – the key questions that the organisation will need to answer, within the next three (3) to five (5) years.
  •  Ask the Senior Managers of the various Business Units to identify the most important questions that their Executive Management Team should be asking them – however, clearly articulate your Senior Managers will be judged on the quality (and type) of the questions that they propose.
  • Once the “right” questions have been selected, the Executive Management Team can now step back and delegate, acknowledging that their teams are working on the stringent collective issues. The teams will begin to design relevant analyses (including big data and AI), amass new knowledge, and develop new recommendations to solve inherent process roadblocks.
  • After constructive dialogue with the Executive Management Team and Senior Managers, the leadership team will select from among the broad options presented (to determine priority) and then sends management back to develop detailed plans, which are then discussed and approved in following meetings.
  • Regular and progressive updates on the agreed project initiatives and a series of ideas – both bold and disruptive – for cross functional consideration to ensure the organisation’s future goals can be achieved.

What is particularly important to note it may take more than one (1) cycle to fully address the questions escalated for robust discussion. However, this process can lead to invigorated long-term visions, adapted or new medium-term strategies, and decisive short-term actions which encourages collaboration and alignment to strategic vision (and direction).

Without clear planning, organisations may find themselves with a disjointed and ineffective approach to data management, which can lead to wasted resources, incorrect decision-making, and missed opportunities for business growth.

Well-structured views of the Data Strategy Roadmap are essential in conveying the infrastructure, architecture, capabilities, talent, and processes needed to drive success. Building the Data Strategy Delivery Plan is a fantastic way to evaluate assumptions around deliverables on an organisation’s data. It helps an organisation improve its decision-making processes, increase efficiency and productivity, and gain a competitive advantage.

The Data Strategy Roadmap is a valuable document to provide governance when executing business initiatives that will deliver the data foundation, as well as a guideline for other projects to make assessments of any impacts or risks on their initiatives, but how these assessments might impact the data strategy. This clarity can be useful to accelerate the change journey, since the Data Strategy Roadmap helps an organisation to:

  • Clearly define its data objectives and goals.
  • Understand its current data landscape and identify areas for process improvement.
  • Prioritise, plan, and execute data-related initiatives and projects.
  • Allocate resources and associated budgets effectively.
  • Continuously monitor and measure performance, with adjustments as required.
  • Review and stay updated on industry trends and market developments.

Leveraging a diverse group of stakeholders improves an organisation’s strategic “peripheral vision” by highlighting both competitive opportunities and risks early and can be a powerful early-warning system. Making it easier to identify your emerging competitors, new business models, and changes to customers’ economics that could undermine the organisation’s long-term vision or challenge key strategic assumptions.

The key to establishing a successful planning team and successful strategy execution is diversity. By inviting a broad range of people and skillsets to the strategy table, you will gain new and invaluable perspectives that lead to creative opportunities for your organisation’s future. Engaging stakeholders (as early as possible) also increases buy-in and enables a smooth transition with implementation of your strategic initiatives.

Better results are achieved by organisations that engage a broad group of internal and external stakeholders in their strategy development efforts, rather than those organisations that leave strategy to be implemented by a small, central team. When reaching for broad consensus, the Strategy Team still has a critical role as an “orchestrator” with driving the process, set timelines, coaching internal teams on strategy methodology, ensure knowledge of proprietary information, and facilitate the dialogue towards an organisational understanding.

The most critical point is that broad consensus prevents groupthink. By involving people from different Business Units, backgrounds, generations, and geographies, an organisation is more likely to construct alternative ideas and perspectives. Additionally, by also engaging external stakeholders (such as customers and vendors) in the process will also provide an outside perspective to evaluating and approving the organisation’s strategy.

However, it is about finding the right balance to be sufficiently engaged in the strategy process, understand the rationale for the chosen strategy, and be prepared to support its execution – to develop a truly valuable governance role.

Developing and executing a great strategic-planning process is only 50% of the challenge. But the other 50% – translating the strategy into results – can be even harder, particularly when the new strategy involves progression away from the core strategy direction.

It is an all-too-familiar story for many organisations and what results from losing focus on their journey towards change.

  • An organisation’s Executive Management Team, Managers, and key stakeholders spends productive time exploring exciting strategic options, developing a new Communication Plan, and making clear choices on the strategic vision (and direction) to deliver business value.
  • Several months later, the collective team reviews the recent strategic initiatives and suddenly realise that, despite their best intentions, the pressure of day-to-day operations, other projects and organisational priorities have sufficiently impeded them from making any measurable progress on the new strategy.

The importance of clear and concise communication cannot be over-estimated. It helps promote the Strategy Plan with a common and proprietary vocabulary. Your internal communication strategy can therefore truly make or break your efforts!

In most enterprise organisations, if you were to ask your Senior Managers that are one (1) level below the Executive Management Team or Board of Directors to accurately describe the organisation’s strategy in a couple of sentences; you will obtain a vast set of responses that are not fully aligned. Then, when you start to move down the organisation’s managerial structure, the signal-to-noise ratio and initiatives understanding both progressively degrades.

A strategic Communication Plan is a written plan outlining communication to your entire team on your organisation’s objectives. This plan is deliberate with its message outline, tactics used to help engage employees with your strategy and the contribution with fuelling performance success for your organisation journey.

With creating the strategic Communication Plan, it is universally applicable to any organisation to follow the below guidelines:

  • Do not rely on written communication alone.
  • Present the Strategy Plan in diverse ways and build creativity with how you present your plan.
  • Make your message clear and relevant.
  • Define your strategic terms and use crystal-clear language.
  • Keep communication flowing in both directions, with critical focus on developing methods (various) for “bottom-up” communication.
  • Tap into your workforce vision by being open to suggestions or feedback from your employees.
  • Be flexible with your approach and direction for change.
  • Make your progress visible with Strategy Boards and by meeting regularly for reviewing current state v. future state.
  • Keep It Simple!

These capabilities allow you to make strategy information visible and transparent for everyone in your organisation – the ingredients of an effective communication approach – remember to communicate effectively and communicate often! By making it easy for your employees to both access the Strategy Plan information and provide you with constructive (and relevant) feedback, you will achieve far more strategic success.

To ensure laser-focus on the new strategy, leading organisations convert the new strategy framework into a set of manageable strategic initiatives, and which gives the strategy both visibility and traction. Each initiative needs to be properly chartered, resourced, and given a clear timeline for milestones delivery. The Strategy Team typically plays the role of Strategy Process Manager which provides support, administrative functionality, and keeping the entire team on course.

It is also essential to have a strong Executive Sponsor, an Executive Committee and clear funding sources approved by the Executive Management Team. But organisational independence is necessary for the new strategy opportunity to be competitive. The best way to drive a successful result is to insulate the new strategic initiative from the core business model, to give it time and space to find its unique footing.

It is important that these project initiatives are priorities for the Executive Committee and form part of the monthly Progress Reviews, with “pressure tests” on the internal strategic dialogues.

Find the Strategy Framework that works best for your organisation and use it!

To encourage the organisation to embrace new strategy initiatives, there is an urgent requirement to identify quantitative metrics and goals that can measure progress. Both complementing the organisation’s financial and operational metrics, the strategy metrics must concentrate on new measures tied to the new strategy. This also includes incentives (such as bonuses) for key stakeholders that should be tied to these strategy metrics, milestones, and end goals.

New and innovative digital and artificial intelligence (AI) tools – Balanced Scorecards (BSC) and Dashboards – make it possible to have a real-time and “clickable” view of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which highlight critical strategic variables that drive performance against the Strategy Plan. Monitoring your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) gives your organisation the ability to measure its progress, manage risk, and make critical adjustments along the way.

At the same time, powerful analytics such as Predictive Metrics integrate with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities, thus increasingly allow for the automation of many first-level and other level analysis. This is because optimising human and machine roles enables organisations to act more efficiently and effectively, especially in the face of changing market conditions.

It is critically important for an organisation to be prepared strategically, to be able to look sideways and slightly backwards, and to have a sound Strategy Framework in place, with IT systems to translate its strategic initiatives into action. But far too many Strategic Planning processes fall short. Failure is due to incorrect focus on analysing the current market and current competitors, rather than searching for or anticipating disruptive new entrants or new business models.

Start small but start now as effective strategic planning is critical for long-term success!

In practice, strategic planning is a doorway to innovation, cultural change, and initiative-taking strategies to manage your response to a changing environment. A successful Strategy Roadmap must be adaptable to changing conditions with organisation’s benefiting from having a flexible plan that can evolve, as assumptions and goals may need adjustments. Preparing to adapt or restart the planning process is crucial, as a more rigorous annual planning process is critical for driving future success, profitability, value, and impact.

Best practice with roadmapping highlights the importance of having clarity and focus when setting goals, since understanding and developing a Strategy Roadmap can significantly enhance your contributions to your organisation’s strategic initiatives. The best Executive leaders engage their employees in the process of creating a shared vision of success, creating a collective understanding and shared meaning to leading your teams with presenting a unique picture of where the organisation is headed.

The Strategy Framework must be an integral part of your three (3) to five (5) year Strategic Plan. In addition to planning how you will achieve your big-picture goals, strategic management also helps you organise your resources and help determine the best Action Plans for success. By understanding the importance of goal setting, assessing your capabilities, stakeholder analysis, and measuring measurable objectives that can be tracked systematically over time, you can build an effective (but practical) Strategy Roadmap that will guide your business to deliver and accelerate business growth.

Need some guidance on your next steps? Let’s start a conversation…