The five questions to test the quality of your strategic plan, part 2

Have you updated your strategy yet? In these coronavirus times, the sure way to thrive is by implementing an organic strategy. When it comes to growth, direction beats speed. If you are in Entebbe and expected to be in Nairobi city in the next five hours, it does not matter how fast you move if you are in a vehicle or plane heading in the wrong direction, all your speed and effort will be useless.

Those who win move faster in the right direction. A strategy is about direction. Execution is about speed.

Simply put, in the game of business, a strategy provides the right direction. And execution provides the right pace and speed. There is nothing as wasteful like executing properly a wrong strategy. You may be moving faster, but you are moving furthest from the desired destination.

Before you start investing your scarce resources in execution, review your strategy against the following questions. Make sure your new or current strategy answers them fully. To read the first two questions, read part 1 here.

Question 3 is about stakeholders.

Who are your critical stakeholders? What does winning mean to your stakeholders? How will they measure a successful strategy and execution?

Remember, a strategy is about making choices on how to win with customers and stakeholders against the competition. Of course, customers are part of your special stakeholders. Any entity or business has multiple stakeholders that must be served.

From a strategic perspective, you must define your stakeholders based on interest in your business and influence over your business decisions. Any stakeholder with both high interest and high influence is identified as critical. You must develop unique strategic interventions to serve such a stakeholder.

Yet, it is common to find many a strategic plan document that is like a research paper – detailing the various stakeholders, the degree of interest and influence, but lacking clear strategic interventions to win with the stakeholders.

As part of the strategic planning process, we undertake intensive stakeholder consultations both internally and externally to gain a thorough understanding of their expectations concerning the business activities. This enables winning with the stakeholder.

Are you planning the next strategic planning retreat? Contact us for a free stakeholder consultant questionnaire template in word. To contact us comment below this article or send an email using any contact point on this website.

Study figure 1 below. If you are an MBA graduate, you probably read the stakeholder power or influence and interest map/grid. The stakeholder power/interest grid shows the Interest and Influence (power) of each stakeholder on the x-axis and y-axis respectively. You start by listing all your known stakeholders – customers (you can choose to define one by one or group them depending on their influence and interest on your business), suppliers, government regulators, technology providers, and staff among others. For each stakeholder, you map their interest and power over your business.

Figure 1: stakeholder mapping grid

Any stakeholder with high interest (in your business), and high influence i.e. (over your business decisions) falls in the grid of high, high, indicated by “manage closely” label. To win, you must locate all your stakeholders in one of the above grids, to devise the right strategy to win with them.

For example, consider your bankers.

If they give you significant funding, they become stakeholders with high interest in your business and the high power over your decisions. Your bankers could ask to recall a loan facility that could cripple your cashflows. Meaning they are critical.

The best strategy to win with such a stakeholder with high power and influence is managing them closely by constant communication, and updates. Overall, proactively managing them better. Knowing their worries, and interests and providing such information to them in time.

Do you need a stakeholder analysis template for your next strategy retreat? If yes, contact us for an editable template.

Question 4 is about the financing strategy

What is your financing strategy? Unlike your business model, the financing strategy defines where you plan to get money to finance your strategy.

We all know that having a great strategic plan is not enough. You need resources to execute it, else the strategic plan remains kept in the drawers.

One time I (Mustapha B Mugisa, Mr. Strategy) was called to help review the strategic plan of an institution, I was surprised to find that the entity had stated lofty goals and aspirations. But planned to beg from well-wishers to implement critical initiatives. How do you draw a strategic plan, define priorities but fail to dedicate resources to execute?

To request a financing strategy template or tools for your strategic plan, contact us.

Q5 is about the structure of strategic pillars alignment.

Is your structure aligned with the new strategy?

Many executives do not see the relationship between strategy and structure. And this is one of the biggest challenges for strategy execution. Remember, when you buy a new car, take the time to show your driver how to operate it. Equally, when your strategy changes, train your people of the new required skills as well as change the structure so that the right people are put in the right positions aligned to your strategic pillars and imperatives.

The common practice is where leaders formulate a strategy to be implemented on the existing structures. This is one of the biggest challenges even for the government. You have a situation where government structures developed in 2000 are still used to implement the Government Medium Development Plan III, developed in 2019! The conditions that existed then and warranted the government structure have since changed. Why keeps the status quo? For every strategy, you must develop a new structure. And this exercise needs to be developed as one assignment.

I have seen leaders making double-spending. First reviewing structure. And after the board has approved it, formulating a new strategy. The result is trying to force the strategy to fit into the structure. It is unfortunate.

The rule is simple: whenever you change your strategy, also change your structure to speak to your strategy and not the other way round.

You cannot introduce a digital agenda but refuse to change your company structure to provide for the Chief Information Officer or Chief Technology Officer, to provide for a high-level representation at the top management for the new business imperatives. Yet, many leaders are more about pleasing current title holders, keeping the status quo only to fail at strategy execution.

Nowadays, we make it critical for all our clients we facilitate strategic planning to align the structure to the new strategy. Otherwise, execution becomes difficult and or next to impossible.

Taken together, every entity needs to undertake a collaborative strategic planning process. On the surface, the strategic plan developed may appear to address all key ingredients. However, on a closer look, many strategic plans are written like research papers with theoretical text that one can easily copy and paste into another document and name it a different company and could as well fit there.

A clear strategy must be organic with specific choices for winning considering the internal and external environment. The strategic plan must be easy to implement. You don’t want to have a new strategy but the company continues the way it was, people continue doing the things they have always done without much reference to the strategy since it may not speak in line with the new challenges.

As we always say, no car inhales its OWN exhaust. No doctor treats himself or herself. Call Mr. Strategy for fresh perspectives.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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