Most companies, big or small, have a strategy, a plan for the coming year(s) with a set of high-level objectives and probably a Goal still to be achieved. Some of these plans are fairly elaborate, other less so and many are more intuitions expressed in broad lines and in rather informal mode.
What executives often don’t have is a clear view about the few Critical Success Factors (CSFs), vital to achieve their strategic objectives and to get closer to achieving the organization’s Goal. Not to mention the numerous Necessary Conditions which are the intermediate objectives, more detailed than the CSFs. And executives are not even aware of (the importance of) all this missing.
That is where fresh qualified eyes can help a lot. Qualified in what? First in challenging the clarity of the statements, especially the Goal statement. After all, this is nothing less than the reason why the whole organization was created, the “raison d’être”, the very purpose.
Lack of clarity about the organization’s Goal can lead off course, misalign the initiatives and burn precious and limited resources on irrelevant projects.
Next is questioning the missing steps to achieve the Goal. Why hasn’t the organization achieved its Goal yet? The less formal the plan and the more likely it is to find “holes”, i.e. unaddressed important necessary conditions to success. How to make sure all the Necessary Conditions have been identified?
And even so the whole plan seems complete, it is not guaranteed that the rollout plan is rationally sound. If the plan doesn’t make sense or is hard to understand, many stakeholders may raise doubts about the leadership abilities of the senior management team, and not wholeheartedly enlist to the project.
It is critically important to have an understandable, clear, unambiguous communication so that every stakeholder understands what is to be done and why. Not to speak about investors when their fundings are needed!
While reviewing the strategy answering the scrutinizer’s questions, it is not uncommon to experience a kind of epiphany (an epiphany is an experience of a sudden and striking realization, wikipedia says), when the team realizes there are new opportunities, better ways, bigger ambitions they haven’t thought about.
This is not – and should not be – direct scrutinizer’s inputs, rather the outcome of his/her questions. From my experience, leadership teams tend to build their plans like a checklist addressing all the basic requirements of the project assigned to them. Some simple unbiased questions can suffice to break out of the non-existent constraints and give new perspectives. For instance, “how do you differentiate from your direct competitors?” was once the trigger for crafting a much bigger, yet realistic and compelling ambition. Without this simple question, the team would probably have restricted itself to plan a me-too strategy, mimicking its competitors.
A formal and structured way
When starting from scratch or reviewing an existing plan, to end up with a sound and robust plan, including all necessary intermediate and sequential objectives, and the “storyboard” to communicate the necessity of the rollout to achieve the vision, does not happen by having a casual discussion. It requires a formal and structured process, as well as a tool to visualize and summarize all of it.
The tool is the Goal Tree, a logic tool I (very) often write about on this blog. But the Goal Tree is only the graphic outcome of the process of building it, and that is when the magic happens. Building a Goal Tree is a step by step, iterative process that requires creativity, logic, freedom to dream and discipline to trim down the dream.
Building a Goal Tree is also building a team. I’ve seen it almost every time: the people building a Goal Tree share a deep understanding of what has to be done and why, as well as a high motivation to make it happen. Once in a while tough, a team member falls off the tree, when he/she realizes that the Goal and strategy to achieve it does not match his/her personal goals and wishes. This clarification, however painful, is beneficial for both parties.
I would like to emphasize that the tool (Goal Tree) is not the craftsmanship (the ability to lead the building of a robust Goal Tree), therefore taking an existing Goal Tree as a template and fill the boxes with one’s own statements does not make a good strategy.
The way to build a Goal Tree can be self-learned. I started this way. I also realized the value of mentorship when I was fortunate to meet and work with the very father of the Goal Tree and the Logical Thinking Process: Bill Dettmer.
Should you consider to hire fresh eyes to have a new look on your strategy, I would recommend to look for practitioners who followed Bill Dettmer’s training courses.
As a master of the Logical Thinking and former officer of the USAF, Bill is uncompromising when teaching his course.
A good way to hire new AND sharp eyes to help you.