Management frameworks are useful tools to know which steps you need to cover when writing a business strategy, but how do you know whether the content of what you have written and what you have decided is any good?
Fifty Shades of Grey follows the classic structure of a traditional book layout, but that doesn't mean that the quality of the story is comparable in anyway to The Catcher in the Rye. Similarly, just because your organisations uses the balanced scorecard and every department fills in their KPIs with diligence and care - doesn't mean that what they have written is accurate, useful, relevant; or that the resulting work that is created is in any way useful to the business.
Simply ticking the box is then a pointless exercise - and more worryingly; often gives organisations a false sense of security because they honestly believe that they are managing the organisation well.
Having worked with lots of organisations over the decades, both at the corporate level as well as nimble tech brands, these are the things I've learnt about great strategies that actually take root in an organisation and create the vision that was in the minds of its authors.
So how then do you know if you are following a quality strategy?
The word 'strategy' comes from the French word stratégie (18c.) and directly from the Greek strategia "office or command of a general," from strategos "general, commander of an army." Strategy then is a function of a clear and unambiguous mission or big-picture intention that the organisation wishes to manifest, situated in the future.
Together - all parts of an organisation work to contribute towards achieving that goal; different parts work independently, yet congruently as a part of the whole. In the same way that a general can see an army advance on its mission objective - a quality strategy should be able to be measured at any time to determine whether or not the organisation is advancing on its achievement. If the mission or measurement is in anyway unclear or ambiguous - then its accuracy and single-mindedness becomes diluted the overall quality of the strategy will suffer. A strategy critically needs to be realistic, achievable and appropriate for the conditions that are the current reality, as well as the foreseen future conditions that are anticipated, but must also be actionable and inspire and incentivise diverse groups into taking the appropriate action to manifest it.
If you have written a strategy, there are then 6 key points that you can check it against to assess how good it is in its potential to deliver what you want.
Because I'm a futurist and futurists just cannot resist slapping their ideas and concepts into a snappy framework, I have summarised these points in the acronym 'MOSAIC'; which stands for:
M - Measurable:
- Is the momentum and progress of the delivery of the strategy measurable by objective evidence?
- Are the associated KPIs for teams and individuals measurable by the proper metrics, which are numbers-based rather than subjective opinion?
- Are there clear milestones, which offer people involved a sense of momentum towards the end goal?
- Does the strategy have a measurable time component [deadlines and deliverables] which is clear and realistic?
O - Open:
- Is the strategy open for adoption from the perspective of multiple stakeholders [teams / individuals]?
- Are the parameters of the strategy tight enough to ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction, but at the same time open enough to ensure that diverse groups will find clear direction and freedom for interpretation for their individual set of conditions?
- Is the strategy open enough to be adapted and modified if needs be, as new information is gained in the future and contextual conditions change over time?
S - Strengths:
- Does the strategy leverage the key strengths of the organisation?
- Is it realistic and reasonable to assume that the current organisation is going to be able to deliver on what is asked of them?
A - Actionable:
- Is the strategy logically plausible? (If the strategy isn't perceived as realistic by staff, they will never buy-in to it.)
- Are there lots of 'quick wins' that can be celebrated as a key part of the design of the strategy?
- Are you [the leadership team] committed enough to get 100% behind the ongoing focus on- and communication of the strategy, for as long as it takes?
- Is it crystal clear as to what it is that you actually want to achieve?
- Do you have a detailed and on-going communication plan to include, inspire and motivate the organisation on its path to realising the future vision that the strategy is designed to manifest?
I - Incentivised:
- Is there an obvious and immediate sense of urgency that the strategy symbolises, which will spontaneously and continuously fire up the whole organisation into action?
- Is the strategy ambitious enough to inspire a sense of achievement?
- Are there rewards, sanctions and clear directives built into the design and proposed incremental execution of the strategy for teams and individuals?
C - Culture:
- Is the strategy culturally-relevant for your organisation?
- Is the strategy designed, written, incentivised and measured in a way that is constant with your organisation's culture?
- Has an appropriate change management program been designed to function in combination with the strategy, to facilitate the anticipated emotional change that your staff will personally experience throughout the strategic journey?
Just like everything else - not all strategy work is created equal.
You get great strategy work and crap strategy work; but if you are going to go through the process of leading an organisation of people towards a better future for all - make sure you are leaning closer to the former rather than simply ticking the box.