Therefore Strategic Technology Services

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Strategy planning … discovering the Tactical

In a previous article mention was made of the importance of ensuring that your Strategy is translated into a tactical plan … something that your team can buy into. Developing a tactical plan is not as easy as it looks. The key question is, “How do you avoid the plan becoming a meaningless list of uneven tasks that are not fine-tuned to add real value?”

Let’s consider the process. You have created a great Strategy. At the high level you know that you are on the right path for making a huge difference to your business’s performance. The next step you followed was talking to the market and taking a few pointers. So far, things are looking great. Now you need to build the tactical plan … but where do you start?

Deriving a tactical plan is hard work. It requires strategic conversation between the right people … and it generally takes more time than you were expecting. The first trick is to select the Team that you want to draw into the debate. Typically, you would draw in your senior staff, perhaps the Executive and their direct reports. Drafting the Executive and their direct reports into the process makes sense, as it will be them that are accountable for the execution of the plan.

I would generally suggest that you also set about identifying “Thought Leaders” that exist within your business and drawing them into the process too. Thought Leaders can exist at any level of the organization and are probably your future leaders. Fundamentally, Thought Leaders are staff that demonstrate a surprising degree of business maturity, have an exceptional understanding of the market that you serve as well as the dynamics that exist within the organization. Most importantly, Thought Leaders have a bent to strategic conversation. Chances are, you have already identified them and have plans to fast-track their progress through the ranks.

To ensure that your Strategy gets unpacked from all functional points of view, it is critical that the Team that you assemble is cross functional. Each Team member must be allowed to contribute to the discussion, both as it relates to his or her function and as it relates to the functions of others.

Now that you have assembled your cross functional Team, the next step is to unpack each of your Strategies one at a time and determine each tactical item that needs to be undertaken to allow your Strategy to become a reality. The trick is to move quickly and to allow for all contributions to be put forward and debated, irrespective of their relative strength.

Once you have all of the proposed tactical items listed, the next step is to choose the ones that you wish to move forward with. Consider the following image.

The process to follow when sifting through proposed tactical items is a relatively simple one. As indicated by the image above, work with your Team to identify the relative “Ease of Implementation” (Difficult or Easy) and “Impact” (High or Low) of each item. You may want to introduce a basic spread sheet based model to allow for the classification to be done a little more objectively, the design of which I will leave up to you.

Some thoughts on the four quadrants follow.
  1. Bottom Left – These items are not easily done and carry little impact. Carefully review all items that fall into the bottom left hand quadrant. As a general rule, consider dropping them from your plan. You may well find that there are quite a few items in this quadrant. Excluding them will make the implementation of your strategy easier and reduce exposure to cost without materially taking away from the impact of your Strategy.
  2. Top Right - These items should typically be prioritized, as they are easy to do and will have a large impact. It is worth bearing in mind that, given the ease of their implementation, your competitors will catch up with you rapidly. It is therefore critical that you plan to derive benefit from these items in the short term prior to your competitors entering into the fray.
  3. Bottom Right - These items build capacity, which is critical for the medium to long term well being of your business. I have often seen business’ under invest in the infrastructural aspects of their Strategic planning, presumably because it doesn't generate immediate gratification. Should this attitude persist into the medium term, the available capacity will be sold into and the business will soon find itself in a position where it has insufficient capacity to support future growth. Turnaround Strategies often find a lot of traction in the grey quadrant.
  4. Top Left – This is where the true magic sits. "Strategic Wins" are typically hard to do, which makes it difficult for your competitors to emulate you. Given that they are hard to emulate, they inevitably provide you with a Sustainable Competitive Advantage.

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