Set up a strategy council to guide strategic thinking and execution planning
Somewhere along the line we all got enamoured with the term strategic planning.
But, according to Verne Harnish, it’s better to think of strategic planning as two distinct activities: strategic thinking and execution planning.
In order to be effective, reach the goals you set out to achieve and grow, you need to have the right individuals assigned on the team to discuss strategy – the Strategy Council – as well as the right process in place.
Strategic Thinking “Council”
Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t”, refers to the strategic team as “the Council”. However, organisations refer to these groups with their own vernacular such as “Executive Council” or “Long-Range Planning Committee”, etc.
The first step is to form the team and ensure you have the “right people on the bus.”
Here are key characteristics of the Council from Collins’s book:
- The Council’s purpose is to evaluate and understand the vital issues the organisation faces. It’s an informal body.
- The top executive assembles the five to 12 people who will be part of the Council.
- Members of the Council will include some members of the management team, but not all. Being an executive doesn’t guarantee membership in the Council.
- Each member of the Council has deep knowledge about an aspect of the business.
- Every member of the Council can debate with the sole purpose of gaining a better understanding, rather than feed their ego to find the “right” answer.
- Respect for all members is retained within the Council.
- The Strategy Council is a standing body that meets consistently whether that’s each quarter or once a week. More frequent meetings are important when the Council is new.
- Ultimately, the lead executive makes the final decision about strategy with the input of the Council. The Council does not seek consensus.
Strategic Thinking is an Iterative Process
When the Council is first formed, it’s important to meet as frequently as weekly. The reality is that strategy isn’t something that can be determined in a set time frame or at an off-site meeting for a few days. It’s an iterative process.
Here are some ways to get the strategy juices flowing to help start your discussions…
Two very effective tools for the Council to use when discussing strategy are:
- Strengths, Weaknesses, Trends (SWT) and 7 Strata worksheets: SWT helps the Council evaluate the significant changes in key areas such as technology, markets, consumers and more that might impact your organisation or industry. SWT considers the strengths of the organisation that have been critical to success as well as the inherent weaknesses of the organisation that aren’t likely to change.
- 7 Strata of Strategy: The 7 Strata worksheet helps the Council to work through all the components that when done right, will help you stand out, crush the competition and become a market leader.
In most firms, marketing strategy equals strategy, so discussing the 4Ps of marketing – product, price, promotion and place – is very beneficial in the strategic thinking process.
Another framework to consider is the 4 Es from Ogilvy:
What the Council is striving for is to hone in on your Hedgehog Concept as described in “Good to Great” – the intersection of what your organisation is deeply passionate about, what drives your economic engine and what you can bet best in the world at.
Collins cautions that getting to your Hedgehog Concept doesn’t happen overnight and will require multiple cycles of understanding before you discover what yours is.
Collins said, “When you get your Hedgehog Concept right, it has the quiet ping of truth, like a single, clear, perfectly struck note hanging in the air in the hushed silence of a full auditorium at the end of a quiet movement of a Mozart piano concerto.”
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I hope you have enjoyed these insights. Have a great week and stay growth-focused!