We have said a number of times on this blog that a strategy is useless unless it is accepted by the organisation and properly executed. You can make any decisions you like in an ivory tower but unless the troops on the ground are aligned – resistence will ensure failure to execute. It is also true to say that strategy is only effective if it evolves on a continuous basis, one of the reasons we built Strategy4IT was to make the documentation of the current state possible – to record not just one moment in time but to rather start a continuous cycle of strategy review and adaption. So, how do you make your organisation ready for change and adapt the necessary culture?
How do you set up and kick off a strategy initiative? My recommendation is to step back to the classic ‘Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?‘ questions list that you can use when kicking off any initiative or project. Definition of your strategy should start as a project, so treat the governance of it like a project and use project best practice to execute it the first time. However, make sure that the project also includes a transition from strategy definition into the operational frame of the business – doing it once is not enough, embed the strategy decision and review process in the organisation’s DNA.
Lets start with the ‘Why?‘ Explain clearly what are the objectives of the strategy, why is it needed and what problems do you want to eliminate. Our 12 step method (12 Steps to an Effective IT Strategy) is structured around setting objectives – so make sure they are well defined and have clear targets. No project should start without clear objectives.
Move on to the ‘When?‘ e.g. when do you need answers by? Set clear deliverable dates that match the cycles in the organisation – such as budgeting, planning and decision cycles/processes. Make sure your funding for the strategy work meets the likely resources needed in regard to the timescale.
Next, define the ‘What and Where?‘ Scope is critical – are you reviewing the whole organisation or just parts of it. Set out clearly the limits of the area being considered, delineate it by the critical dimensions – which locations, business processes, departments, product areas, business units, etc. are concerned? Any project without clear scope will fail.
Agree on the ‘Who?‘ In all projects, the stakeholders are critical. Define your stakeholder list, make sure they are informed and know the ‘Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?‘ Agree necessary resources with them and get their buy in before you start. Agree on experts to be involved, their contribution and align expectations. Set clear checkpoints and establish a steering process for the strategy project itself.
Set the ‘How?’. Plan the plan. Work out your deliverables (you can follow our 12 step guide – 12 Steps to an Effective IT Strategy), estimate the deliveries and timescales needed, cross check the resources and ensure that funding matches the plan. Set out the overall approach, deliverables and involvement needed from stakeholders & experts that will contribute. Above all, be prepared to monitor against the plan as you would in any other project and deal with issues as they arise.
The most important point is not to treat this strategy definition project as a one-off exercise. Strategy is a living thing that should be part of the consciousness of all organisations. Therefore, it is critical to embed in the organisation the ongoing strategy review process by not only checking that the agreed initiatives are executed but also embedding a regular review of the strategic decisions themselves to further improve them and adjust to the latest business climate.