Does Strategy Enhance Business Performance?

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Part I: How to Turn Strategy into Action

The mere mention of strategy often evokes images of long discussions, debates over the semantics of a mission statement and whether or not you’ll be able to enact your vision.

Yet the general consensus is that every business needs a strategy. Many business owners and executives have labored to produce well-crafted statements of mission, vision, and values so they can tick the box and meet the requirement. Most businesses have a strategy in one form or another, often assembled at an off-site retreat, and someone in the company can likely say exactly where that binder is right now, collecting dust.

In most cases you sat down and set out your ideas in a strategic plan with the best intentions, despite lingering reservations that little would actually change. Naturally, the most important ideas discussed made it into reality in one form or another, mainly having to do with which potential clients would be the best to acquire.

The real question is whether this plan has achieved the breakthrough bottom line results you projected.

Put another way, have you executed your strategy?

Ideas are only valuable if they are turned into actions. And actions only matter if they ultimately produce profit.

What you really need to do is turn ideas into actions that boost your bottom line, preferably mutually reinforcing actions which will exponentially increase profit.

So much time is spent putting out the inevitable fires and dealing with the normal rush of daily activity. The future, the customary realm of strategy, is something that will be dealt with later – a later that keeps moving farther into the distance.

Who can blame you? You need, as just noted, to be focusing on profitable activity.

Clichés abound regarding the wisdom of consistently chipping away at an intimidatingly elephant-sized goal, like doubling net profits.

But what does this actually look like? How can you move the mountain one rock at a time? If you execute your strategy, what identifiable effects would it have on your company?

Sure, it sounds great. Most people would agree that we need to do something with our big ideas or they are just hot air. It’s the business equivalent of “brush three times a day.” Similarly, results will only be noticeable retrospectively after an extended period of time.

Imagine if you could be everywhere at once, if you could constantly convey your ideas and experience in the face of daily decisions to everyone in the company. Imagine if everyone knew where the company was going and how to contribute to getting there.

That’s what strategy is all about. Strategy defines the activities in which you will and will not engage, and what those activities will accomplish, in order to get your company from where you are today to where you want to be at a specific time in the future.

Ask yourself if everyone in your company, from top management to line employees, knows:

  1. What they will do each and every day to contribute to achieving the long-term success of the company.
  2. How, specifically and quantifiably, the company defines long-term success.
  3. How the company is progressing toward that definition of success.

Four main barriers stop strategy from becoming sustainable bottom line growth.

  1. A lack of clarity and understanding about exactly where the company is going and how it will get there
  2. An inability to make strategy everyone’s job
  3. A separation and disconnection between planning, budgeting and the reality of daily operations
  4. An inability to test and monitor if plans are achieving desired results and how plans need to be adapted or changed

What can you do now?

By defining a quantifiable strategic destination, what is often called a vision, you can communicate to the entire organization how they can contribute to success.

Your plans should consider:

  1. What actions you’re going to take
  2. What resources you’re going to allocate
  3. How you’re going to measure progress toward achieving your objectives

The focus should be making strategy everyone’s daily job. Stay tuned for future installments in this series that will address, in detail, practical steps to enhance your company’s performance through strategy and principals centered on a measurement, management and communication system.

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