The word strategy is misleading.
It throws people off because when the concept of a strategy is thrown around, it sounds as if one single future plan of action is enough.
In our experience, having facilitated 'strategy' workshops for numerous organisations for many years - one, single strategy is simply not effective enough.
It may feel very satisfying to leave an off-site session with a plan of action to address the business goals of the organisation, but a business strategy in isolation doesn't capture the full picture of how a group of people, working together, need to holistically view their journey towards a preferred future state.
To get the most out of strategic planning there are in fact four distinct strategies that need to be created and measured in order for effective progress to be made.
Let me lightly outline each of them here:
Strategy #1 - The Business Strategy
The Business Strategy is the envisioned way in which the business wants to exist in relation to its contextual / operating environment.
This is traditionally the strategy that CEOs and executives teams feel comfortable focusing on.
The business strategy takes into account the business' financial goals, its growth aspirations, how it is seen as an increasingly productive and desirable asset in the society in which it is located. This plan's intention is to outline how the business' value can be maximised when it is viewed by key stakeholders.
The metrics used to evaluate success are no doubt quite familiar to most - market share, revenue growth, profitability etc etc - all measure the required quantitative growth required.
Strategy #2 - The Marketing Strategy
Marketing is defined as everything a business does, from the perspective of its existing and potential customers.
The marketing strategy is the envisioned desirable state of the relationship between the brand and its customers, coupled with the plan of action as to how that relationship is to be created, leveraged and maintained.
The marketing strategy cannot exist in isolation from the business strategy; the two need to work in unison with each other to build the external persona of the business, which ultimately leads to the desired success offered by the vision.
The metrics used to measure the success of the marketing strategy are measures that indicate the quality of the relationship that the brand has with the customer; CAC, CLV, ARR etc etc.
Strategy #3 - The Culture Strategy
The culture strategy focuses efforts internally and outlines how an organisation intends to develop the internal relationships between staff, functional departments and the greater business value chain, in order to deliver on the vision set out in the marketing strategy.
Nothing is more powerful than a group of inspired people working together to achieve a goal that is far greater than the sum of their individual contributions. The culture strategy is the framework on which this magical power of collaboration is structured and nurtured, and the intended internal development milestones are tracked.
The metrics used to measure the success of the culture strategy are qualitative measures that indicate how well the development of the desired relationships between people and functions are progressing. Tools like those developed by Gallup and instruments like the OCAL are important here, but so too are productivity measures.
Strategy #4 - The Learning and Growth Strategy
Lastly, the fourth required strategy is the learning and growth strategy.
This is the outlined structure of how an organisation intends to maximise the personal mastery (of their craft and self) of the individuals that contribute to the success of the business whole.
Consciously developing the internal relationships that individuals have with themselves, is an investment in the overall long-term quality of the business itself. Without a distinct focus on this, often overlooked, part of the four strategies, you run the risk of building a hollow, soulless business that nobody really cares about at a deeper level.
Leading people through the process of developing their own mastery is ultimately what makes a good business, great.
Measuring progress here is a qualitative exercise where many of the tools useful for measuring culture development, apply at the learning and growth level too.
All four work together to form one, big, integrated picture
Each one of the four strategies needs to exist in relation to the other three.
Having a good business strategy, without a learning and growth strategy will no doubt result in a business that struggles to retain its talent.
A great culture strategy without a strong marketing strategy will result in a business that people feel is more like spending time with good friends rather than a great place for individuals to grow themselves professionally and focus on unleashing their talents.
A good-sounding business strategy without the other three supporting strategies is simply a wish list with very little chance of successfully achieving in practicality.
In combination, each of the four strategies helps to drive the business forward; towards the overall future vision that is desired. The vision is the so-called North Star that inspires all of the work - and the people - that hold that vision close.
Strategy is the art of carefully selecting where a business applies its focus and resources in order to achieve its ultimate aim. A large part of the work is in selecting what not to do rather than what's too be added.
Four key areas need to get the strategic lens treatment in order for people's efforts - and the considerable amount of money that will be spent trying to reach their goals - to be considered fruitful.
Get the combination of the four right and the path towards the vision becomes far less burdened by obstacles.