There are few things more exciting than embarking on a new journey, charting a new course, challenging the status quo, or well… evolving. In an always competitive business environment, having clarity of vision and being able to achieve that vision should be as easy as it sounds – Unfortunately, it is not. Far too many brilliant strategies lay dormant on Executive and Senior Management bookshelves – Time capsules representing the goals and aspirations of the day. But why is this? In my experience, there are a number of reasons ranging from a lack of consensus on the vision, insufficient management support, or even a poorly conceived strategy, but the overwhelming reason I hear is “We don’t have an action plan to execute the strategy”.
Strategy for the longest time has had an aura about it; ambiguity about how it comes to be. We hear terms like “Blue Sky”, “Green Fields” which while relevant, certainly add to the perceived nebulous nature of a strategy development project. In reality, developing a strategy is a highly intentional and methodical process that for it to be successful, needs to meet the following key criteria. It must:
- Align with the overarching strategy, goals and objectives of the organization
- Be clear on what problem it solves, capabilities it enables, or opportunities it capitalizes on
- Depict and describe the future state and any interim / evolutionary stages
- Be realistic and achievable; factoring in readiness across IT, organizational, process and financial dimensions
- Describe the value in achieving the future state and the investment to get there
- Detail what needs to be done when
This last critical step is often left out with the notion of it being a future activity once consensus has been attained on the strategy itself. Unfortunately, without this key piece of information, it is impossible to understand the true cost and time-to-value aspects of the strategy.
Developing the Action Plan – The Roadmap
Although a strategy is not a one size fits all proposition, it is often the case that the Vision itself may only be a variation of a common theme based on the type of strategy. For example, an Organizational Optimization strategy will be about creating and meeting a vision around an effective, aligned workforce. The vision for a Document Management Strategy will likely focus on findability, and compliant, efficient information management across the enterprise. What is almost guaranteed to be different for every organization, and what really matters in terms of strategy execution, is the Roadmap. The Current State of every organization will differ. The rate at which an organization can adapt to change, the competing priorities and dependencies related to the strategy, and the availability of funds and resources will all have an impact on the Roadmap and the phases, activities and key milestones it contains.
The method by which an appropriate Roadmap can be developed must incorporate the following critical steps and cross-checks:
- Gap Analysis – An assessment of the gap between the current and future states must be completed and the recommended activities required to bridge the gaps, defined.
- Prioritization – For each item in the laundry list of activities, analysis should be conducted that enables each item to be sequenced in the roadmap based on value, criticality, alignment to key strategic factors, dependencies and readiness
- Cross-Check – In the flurry of ideas and pork barrel type inclusion of initiatives that add to a strategy, it is always important to apply this litmus test to ensure a congruent strategy and roadmap. For every initiative outlined, pose the question “is this activity required to support the achievement of the vision?” If it does, it belongs in the roadmap. If it doesn’t, remove it or revisit the vision to ensure it is fully representative of the strategic goals and objectives.
By applying this rigor to the development of a strategy, we overcome the primary obstacles to implementing a strategy: Gaining consensus and buy-in, and mobilization. The strategy is now traceable and defendable, and a plan is in place for its initiation and execution.
What do you find to be the biggest obstacles in your ogranization to implementing a strategy roadmap?