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Felicity Hinton

Communicating your strategy effectively

By | Strategy

Putting a strategy map to work

 

Visualising the way forward

Critical research shows that one of the reasons why business strategies stumble and fall short, is a lack of shared vision throughout the organisation.

In most organisations, senior management is tasked with the development of strategy. On completion, the new strategy then cascades down to middle managers for implementation.

But for this process to be successful, senior managers must be equipped to articulate the strategy clearly and succinctly. And they must have the ability to communicate the strategy effectively, making it relevant and inclusive. For, ultimately, it is senior management’s responsibility to turn strategy into action.

Only, studies show that, irrespective of industry or sector, lower-level employees have little to no knowledge of their organisation’s goals, and even less idea of how of their functional roles contribute to the organisation’s strategy.

One way to solve this problem is to use a strategy map. A strategy map is a visual communication tool that enables people to understand organisational strategy, and how to translate it into individual, actionable activities. At its simplest, a strategy map is a diagrammatic representation of the organisation’s strategy that acts as a framework to document strategic goals, as well as the high-level requirements to achieve those goals.

Without a strategy map, an organisation’s KPIs will be limited to operations, rather strategic communications.

 

The eValue Strategy Map

eValue is a performance management survey and scorecard. Unlike most traditional surveys, every question is linked back to your organisation’s specific strategic objectives and business goals. Whether you are driving specific strategies or even measuring the implementation of your overall organisational strategy or specific initiatives, eValue provides instant feedback in real time, enabling accelerated action planning and improvements.

The eValue strategy map is created around questions, such as, “what are we trying to achieve?” and “what are the resources, systems and activities that will make this happen?” In essence, a strategy map raises the level of dialogue from discussions around operations to strategy and strategy implementation, helping to systematically design measures that align with an organisation’s goals.

So, whether you are looking at the organisation as a whole, or constituent elements, such as organisational culture and engagement, or external factors, like customer and channel satisfaction, the advantages of mapping business strategy are multiple.

 

The benefits of mapping your strategy

  • It captures strategy into a single, succinct framework
  • It helps to facilitate discussion around relevant OKRs
  • It helps to identify key focus areas

Using the eValue strategy map helps monitor progress in a dynamic environment, enabling new information to be fed into the framework achieving higher efficacy and better results.

Turning people data into actionable insights

By | Strategy

Closing the strategy and people performance gap

It all starts with insights

An interview with Ron Schiff, founder and CEO of strategy survey platform, eValue to discuss how to help organisations drive culture, engagement and results.

 

You describe eValue as a tool that links strategy and people. Can you expand on this?

Ron: I often cite a Fortune 100 headline that claims that more than 90% of organisations don’t track their key performance indicators. Also, that only 10% of organisational strategies are ever successfully executed. Kaplan and Norton, of the Balanced Scorecard, maintain that relevant and prompt feedback is vital in the execution of strategy.

However, one of the biggest challenges facing business is the overwhelming amount of data to process when identifying and shortlisting priority areas for improvement.

What is needed, really, is an information-gathering tool that links its content with the organisation’s objectives and goals, providing a systemic view of what is working, and which areas require improvement.

Only a small percentage of traditional surveys leverage an organisation towards fulfilling strategic priorities because they tend to focus, either on things like job satisfaction or work-life balance and other respondent-centric elements, or they don’t link what is assessed in the survey to explicit business objectives.

Best-in-class organisations are now insisting that their surveys have a strategic focus in linking employee experiences and engagement levels, with business performance.

As a strategic survey, eValue pre-aligns metrics to business goals. And it does this by highlighting the priority issues, as well as the back-burners. A famous military general once said, “Don’t tell me about the hills and trees on the battlefield – rather tell me which ones are important”.

 

Would you say that the depth and granularity of the data provided by an eValue survey helps eliminate the unconscious, cognitive bias that characterises C-suite decision-making?

Ron: I read once that in project management, prevailing wisdom prescribes the addition of workers to a project that is seen to be lagging. However, in practice, this tactic may slow down development. This example – of cognitive management bias – was commented on by Stephen Hawking who said, “the greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.”

So, while high-level feedback, such as the Net Promotor Score, may serve its purpose as a primary indicator of progress and loyalty, it falls short in answering the “Why” question behind the statistics. Questions like, “why are sales down?”, “why is there a distribution bottleneck?” etc.

eValue provides the “why” behind the “what” and adopts a more granular approach in understanding the perception of products, services, lines of business, systems and resources – much like the Balanced Scorecard – all linked back to specific strategic business goals.

As an example of what I mean by the “why” behind the “what”, I remember the “Aha” moment when a client in the motor industry identified a strategic priority that had emerged from the quantitative survey feedback and supporting qualitative text comments provided by eValue. Up until that point, this client had simply not seen the problem – his one-sided perspective had made him overlook it.

However, biases are often too strong to be overcome through feedback alone. Management needs to learn how to suspend its preconceived ideas, concepts and theories, and actually listen to its people.

 

eValue’s brand positioning – helping business leaders to make better decisions – stems from the latest findings in behaviour science. Can you tell us more?

Ron: I find this emerging discipline fascinating. Since the culture of an organisation reflects the aggregate mindset of its people, I believe that sustainable change really takes root when individuals change their thinking patterns, beliefs and behaviours – not only about their jobs, but about themselves.

However, one of the greatest challenges seems to be the transformation of group behaviour and attitudes. We know how challenging it can be to change a structure or process. But when it comes to changing behaviour, we encounter the most complicated thing in the world – human beings. There is nothing more complex, capable and creative, but also potentially conflicted than our own species.

Neuroscience tells that what we experience (the culture, the people, the environment) affects our emotions, which in turn impacts what we feel. And what we feel influences our thinking and, ultimately, our behaviour.

So, because most of what leads to our behaviour happens in our guts, hearts and brains, the more we understand and apply behaviour-related processes that can rewire our organisational brains, the better.

It all begins with personal awareness and an eValue survey can stimulate group awareness of an organisation’s strategic objectives and key operating requirements.

Is strategy still relevant?

By | Strategy

Why strategy matters. More than ever.

 

Towards purposeful differentiation

The traditional approach to strategy involves three, simple steps: analyse, plan, execute. Great for a world without instant access to people, data and markets. In other words, a pre-digital world. But with the rise of AI, automation, machine learning, mobile internet, blockchain and cloud computing, not only is the traditional approach to strategy irrelevant, it’s absurd.

Anyone in business can see that strategy is evolving; that it is becoming more flexible, adaptable and iterative. In a world where technology is outpacing customary strategic planning cycles, there is a growing realisation that medium- to long-term planning is pointless. Risky, even. And with this realisation comes a new-found understanding; of what strategy is, and is not.

Strategy is not planning. Nor is it goal-setting. Or tactic-tracking.

It is the purposeful direction of people.

‘Purposeful direction’ implies choice; the choice to go one way and not another. And that’s precisely what strategy comes down to: choosing to take a position towards purposeful differentiation.

In a McKinsey interview with Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, Nadella speaks about the company’s purpose in terms that are unmistakably human:

“One of the key things, I feel, is that just like individuals, companies have an identity. I even talk about it as a soul. It’s that collective purpose that a company represents. In Microsoft, we talk about our mission as being empowering every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. Every one of those words, for me, telegraphs that soul.”

Nadella is describing Microsoft’s purpose; the position it has chosen in response to its role in the world. And it is not distinct from its strategy.

As CEO, Nadella’s job is not to arrange plans or devise tactics, it is simply to direct purpose. And no one understands this better than Nadella himself.

Strategy is more relevant and more important than ever because, as the pace of change accelerates, organisations are struggling to make the right choices. For many companies, the challenge isn’t even about making the right choices, it’s the inability to make any choices at all. Very quickly, the problem becomes systemic: No decisions, no strategy, no purpose.

But why are organisations failing to make smarter, better decisions?

One reason, is overly-managed and stifled organisations. Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini’s grounding research into corporate bureaucracy reveals that “the average first-level employee in a large organisation is buried under eight or more layers of management”.

Another barrier to effective decision-making is exclusivity. Most organisations – small, medium and large – restrict decision-making to the realm of upper management. Often, at this level, decision-making becomes defunct; either because top-tier individuals are more concerned about self-protection and maintaining the status quo, or because cross-functional decision-making is hindered by silos and silo thinking. Either way, nothing kills purpose and passion faster than bureaucracy and entropy.

But there’s an out. And it’s disarmingly simple: Organisations don’t change for the better – people do.

So, gather your people. Don’t leave anyone out. Invite people to participate in shaping the company’s strategy. Chances are, something new and wonderful will emerge: A strategy for a singularly powerful and shared purpose.