Improve your collaborative problem-solving and strategic planning processes to have your desired impact in the market.
Developing effective strategies is crucial in today’s constantly evolving business environment. However, 48% of strategies fail for various reasons. Increased external pressures like competition, digital transformation, climate change, and AI require a response. More than ever, executive teams must align on their vision and strategies to succeed in a more complex, volatile world.
Few executive teams are great at solving problems together.
I regularly ask my client leadership teams if they have an agreed-upon process to solve problems together. I have yet to find one that does, yet solving problems is what they do, day in and day out. Think about that for a second.
Imagine how much more efficient they could be if they did have a problem-solving process that worked, whether they were trying to develop a long-term strategy or respond to a crisis. Usually, the HIPPO (HIghest-Paid Person’s Opinion) wins, or the person who speaks fastest and with the most conviction. Each time the CEO or another executive pushes their opinion, while they may not hear dissent, they may have repelled others who had a different idea but didn’t express it because they don’t want to “be difficult” or cross their leader.
That’s a lost opportunity to hear from everyone and achieve ownership and alignment from the whole C-Suite team. What happens after the meeting? Less engagement during execution and, unfortunately, worse results.
Even fewer executive teams have a proven process to develop and implement their strategy.
Developing a strategy, including an implementation plan, is even more difficult than solving a problem. Most executive teams fail to create a sound strategy:
- Some leaders want to hold an offsite “next week.” They may be new to the role and want to repeat what they did at their last company. They’ll hire a facilitator to lead a 1-day session (or two days if they’re “feeling generous”). There’s no prep work or assignments, and they start with a blank sheet of paper. There might be a groovy muralist in the corner illustrating the rapture of all the words being said with sunshine and rainbows. Rarely does that day end up with a specific plan, let alone having each leader knowing what they need to do to execute their part of the strategy.
- Larger companies delegate strategy development to staff roles (e.g., a “Corporate Strategy” or “Planning” function). To justify their existence, the planning team must show the C-Suite that they have “the smartest ideas.” After all, this is their full-time job! They present gorgeous slides with circles, arrows, charts, and even “magic” quadrants with conviction.
Unsurprisingly, since the C-Suite wasn’t involved, the strategy team’s ideas are rarely embraced by the C-Suite. It’s human nature – people tend to be skeptical of solutions they were not involved in creating. The planning team’s plan is dead on arrival. C-Suite members each do their own thing. Another lost opportunity to get everyone rowing in the same direction.
- A few executive teams try to decide on a mission, vision, and values — and rabbit hole on terminology (“No, Bill, that’s our mission, not our vision”) or spin out on long-winded debates. Like the airport’s familiar lower-level conveyor belt, an endless stream of old baggage in the form of pet projects and personal agendas spew forth, reopening settled debates. Frustrated by the end of the day, the leader, the team, or both throw up their hands and give up.
- Precious few organizations have an agreed-upon strategy development process with defined terms and specific steps to go from where you are today to a strategy over roughly a calendar quarter. Fewer still have a plan to ensure implementation or will allocate the necessary time to strategy. According to Harvard Business School, 85% of executive leadership teams spend less than an hour a month on strategy, and 50% spend no time at all.
The hidden costs of no strategy
The result – few companies end up with a strategy and implementation plan. The result?
- Ongoing costs of fettered, fragmented resources not going toward their most important and best use (and good luck finding these hidden costs on your income statement).
- Low company morale (“Because we have no strategy…”),
- Executive and employee turnover (“our team is frustrating to work with and life’s too short”),
- Overcommitted resources (“we can’t say “no” to anything, so we’re all running around trying to do everything, end up stretched thin and feel like we’re not doing anything well”),
- Not to mention less impact in the market due to the lack of a strategic effort.
“Yeah, we tried creating a strategy once, but that didn’t work,” and “We move too fast to have a strategy” are justifications that leave your company operating inefficiently and having less than desired impact in the market.
Imagine if you could collaborate effectively to create your strategy and focus your team’s time on implementation.
Defining your company strategy is one of the top five “most important problems” an executive team needs to solve. Leaders need to commit the time to reap the benefits. Engaging every executive and their teams in developing the strategy results in ownership and alignment by the leaders. More ownership and alignment improves execution and reduces time to value. People tend to support strategies that they created.
What if I told you there is a way for your team to co-create and implement a strategy they believe in?
Tennant Consulting clients are doing these today. Perhaps you’d like to join them!