Change eats strategy for breakfast

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When 75% of executives don’t consider their company strategy to be ChangeReady (Future of Business Summit), it’s probably not that surprising that 84% of transformations fail.

Without a clear strategy in place, how do you know where you’re going? And what it’s going to take to get you there? How would you know whether or not you’d been successful? And how could people understand the role they need to play?

Earlier this month, S&S hosted a breakfast seminar with a range of business leaders to better understand the most important elements of strategy when delivering change. Here is a summary of their discussion:

1. Change is the strategy

A trend we noticed early on at S&S was how change is often treated as a project. And because transformation is thought of as being complex, time-consuming and costly, that ‘project’ is easy to kick down the road.

Every business will have a vision they’re driving towards. But if the end-date is 3-5 years out, could you guarantee that your current target operating model would still be relevant then? And what about the strategic roadmap – although a useful tool for setting out milestones on your journey, you can’t afford for it to be something that gets locked away in a file share never to see the light of day again.

Digital has vastly increased the pace of change, which is why your strategy needs to be a living, breathing part of your organisation that is constantly reviewed and updated.

Perhaps the best way to ingrain change within the business strategy is through digitalisation – not to be confused with ‘digitisation’, which is more concerned with how you turn your traditional paper post-it notes and whiteboard doodles into a Miro board. Digitalisation is about using tools to facilitate business through digital means. It allows people to share, collaborate and facilitate ideation and creation all the time, rather than confine the process to a scheduled meeting.

2. Knowing the best path to tread

One of the reasons challenger brands are successfully rivalling larger, more established enterprises is that they think about how anything is possible. Rather than look to the norms of their industry, or blindly follow what their competitors do because “That’s how it’s done”, they seek inspiration from everywhere. In a world that is more digital and connected than ever before, you are no longer compared to your closest rival, but to the best experience your customer has ever encountered. When you challenge the status quo, question ‘why?’ and think outside the confines of your sector, a world of new possibilities opens up before you.

A real sign of organisational maturity is when companies stop competing with those around them and look internally to compete with themselves. By following a path of continuous improvement, they learn how to embrace their capabilities for competitive gain. However, to enable a step-change approach to strategy, you first need to create the right environment. And this requires you to do two things:

Decide where change will have the biggest impact

We all have multiple strategies within our business at any one time. For a challenger brand, they might build change into their business strategy to give them an edge. Whereas a market leader may focus more on their R&D strategy to make functional change to their products/services. And a startup might look at their ecosystem strategy and how they can partner with other organisations to strengthen their proposition. 

Know where you are in your organisational life cycle

If you’re a mature business you might focus on optimising to make more money today. Whereas a growth business would be more interested in harnessing entrepreneurial talents to scale up. And a future business will require innovation to ensure they continue to remain relevant in tomorrow’s market.

Different people are suited to different stages because of the natural talents and skill sets they possess. Therefore, knowing where you are in your journey ensures you have the right leadership to take you to the next stage.

 3. Clarity with communication

Just because you tell someone something, it doesn’t mean they hear you – or even understand. I’ve recently been working on the S&S parental leave policy and could happily tell you all about it and share insights from my book about life as a working mother. But if you’re a young, male graduate just starting out on the career ladder with no intention of becoming a dad anytime soon, I might as well be speaking Mandarin.

Different people, different teams and different levels in the organisational hierarchy will speak very different languages.

When you communicate your strategy, it’s important to remember this so you tailor the message to your audience. The best way to make something personal and relatable is to tell a story. Don’t shout about how you’re looking to grow the business by 10% this year, because, so what? Talk to their hearts and minds – how does that growth translate into a vivid vision? And what does it mean to them personally? Why would they want to get involved?

If you can share your strategy clearly, it’s easier for people to buy into it, which means everyone is then pulling in the same direction.

4. Reward and recognition

Leaders often forget that they are very different to everyone else in the organisation. They sit with responsibility for people, targets (and ultimately the organisation’s success), which is why they’re paid the big money. They might even have shares in the company, in which case they have a vested financial interest in the company’s future.

While the leadership team sets the vision and is accountable for the goals, it’s the responsibility of middle management to implement change and this can be a real challenge. Because they’re closer to the front line, they’re the people who really understand what’s happening within the business, so the successful rollout of any initiatives sits firmly on their shoulders. Therefore, you have to engage and involve them. You have to help them to believe change is the right thing because they understand why it’s necessary and are excited about being a part of it.

Find out more…

On Wednesday 21st April at 5.30pm, our panel of experts will discuss strategy in more detail and how you can affect it to ensure your business is ChangeReady. Find out more and register…

Jacqueline Shakespeare
Written by Jacqueline Shakespeare
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