Does Your Strategy Have "Stickability"?

Last Updated Oct 20, 2008 7:36 AM EDT

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Can you articulate your company's strategic objectives? If so, do they provide clear and unequivocal guidance to you and your team about what is required to achieve success over the next few years?

Too often companies' strategic statements are a mix of platitudes and hubris. A strategic objective to deliver the 'best customer service in the world' is likely to receive nods of agreement from around the board table but is simply not precise enough to be delivered by the organisation.

At its heart strategy is about trade-offs. It's about choosing to invest time, resource and money in one area at the expense of another. If you are not specific about the trade-offs you are making, don't be surprised if you don't achieve the results you want.

Once you move away from platitudes to specific objectives, you will create the focus to deliver significant growth. In the 1990s Asda created its George clothing brand on the back of a goal to develop a serious, £1bn clothing offer by 2000.

The Asda leadership didn't just say they wanted to offer clothing, they said they were serious about it, identified a specific -- and at the time, hugely ambitious -- performance goal, and created a timetable and organisation for delivery.

I am currently finishing a client project where we have identified a few, big priorities for future growth. The work we have done will help the business deliver substantial profit increases, but we have also created a set of strategic objectives that are specific. We did this in three stages:

  1. Identify the key drivers of value for the business. Take the time and the data to get behind the 'noise' and the various opinions to really understand what will best drive the organisation's future success and profit growth. From an initial list of 20 hypotheses we identified four key priorities that could be done immediately and would have the biggest impact on the business.
  2. Determine the level of change required for each of the priorities to make a material impact to the bottom line. For example, propose 50 per cent improvements in the performance of certain areas of the business over the next few years.
  3. Validate performance goals through internal and external benchmarking to provide the management team with the evidence that the scale of change is both possible and necessary.
Creating clear, precise, and practical strategic objectives can have a profound effect on the focus, energy and performance of your organisation. Where does your strategy need to become more specific?

(Photo: Stinging Eyes, CC2.0 )

  • Stuart Cross

    Stuart Cross is a founder of Morgan Cross Consulting, which helps companies find new ways to drive substantial, profitable growth. His clients include Alliance Boots, Avon and PricewaterhouseCoopers.