95% of employees in a recent survey admitted to either not knowing or not understanding their company’s strategy. More worryingly are the multiple research papers that show only a small percentage of companies deliver on their intended strategy.
Thousands of these companies suffer the same set of problems whether it’s poor strategy execution, ineffective prioritisation or deficient communications and alignment.
So how do you organise yourself to ensure strategy gets executed?
Introducing the Strategic Planning Office.
Having a SPO is nothing new. Lots of businesses have them already. They’re a team of no more than 8–10 people who are responsible for helping the company define and execute strategy. They are the glue that binds all the various business units and functions together to ensure the strategy is delivered as intended.
So what do they do?
1.Define and review strategy — they work with leadership to define what the strategy will be for the coming horizon whether it’s 2, 3 or 5 year period. They work to define what the company won’t be doing as much as what it will. They are there to clarity the current state and plot what the future vision and outcome looks like. The team are also responsible for reviewing strategy on a regular cadence to ensure the company is still headed in the right direction.
2. Define North Star metrics — they work to craft the metrics including input and output metrics. They work to define the lagging and leading indicators the business should be monitoring.
3. Define Objectives and Key Results — they craft the OKRs for the company and help Business Units and Functions do the same. They work to ensure there is consistency in how OKRs are done across the company. They issue guidance and support to ensure teams are aligning themselves behind a single strategy and without burdening teams with too many OKRs to hit.
4. Manage the planning process — they manage the planning, execution and review process end-to-end. They begin the planning process in late August and run it though various rounds of negotiation and ratification before it enters the budget planning period. The team break planning down into manageable chunks with gates defined throughout the process to guide those involved. The team are responsible for managing and cascading communications as well as reviewing strategy once it transitions from theory into practice.
5. Prioritise and manage trade offs — they ruthlessly prioritise what the company does and doesn’t do. They grade proposed programmes and projects to ensure resources are used most effectively. They explain to teams why certain proposals are not to receive funding.
6. Manage by exception — they intervene on programmes and projects that are operating outside tolerance. While having oversight of all effort, they focus leadership attention on solving problems with ‘Big Bets’ that pose a high risk to the business if they go off track.
7. Own a single roadmap — they manage a single view of deliverables the company is aiming to land. They track milestones and investigate when there are unexplained ‘right moves’ on gantt charts. They track and review when expected benefits are forecast to be realised. They discuss and debate how priorities should be recalibrated based on new information coming to light.
Who works in the team and where does it sit?
The lead is the Chief of Staff. They’re responsible for managing the entire planning process on behalf of the Chief Executive. The Chief of Staff takes instruction from the CEO but is also has dotted lines into other roles such as a Chief Technology Officer, Chief Operating Officer or the Chief Financial Officer.
The rest of the team comprises of strategy specialists with a proven track record in delivering tangible change on the ground. They are supported by Business Analysts who can help with data analysis, reporting and performance tracking. It’s worth having single owners for the core three disciplines your business needs to operate — People, Process and Product.
In some planning units, the team will also have dotted lines to each of the leaders within the Business Units and Functions. This is aimed at maintaining alignment throughout the planning and execution process. It also helps the planning office to gauge the ideas and proposals bubbling up from various teams before the planning process begins.
The team sits above any Programme Management Office. The planning unit is there to define what gets delivered. It’s the job of the PMO to decide the how it is resourced and managed.
Having a Strategic Planning Office does more than simply ensure stuff gets delivered. Building out a team to focus on execution makes it clear to employees how effort will be tracked. At the end of each year the SPO should issue a report that outlines how execution has worked over the previous 12 months. Having a single team devoted to landing strategy keeps leadership’s feet to the fire.
Without one your company will continue to drift with the bulk of your employees not understanding the strategy you are aiming to deliver. Is that a risk you’d be willing to take?
At Strategy Activist we help clients improve their governance and ways of working. We aid clients in becoming more effective and efficient at landing strategy in the real world. To learn more about what we do and how we can help visit us at www.strateyactivist.com or call us on +44 7786063053.