So you’ve developed a strategy….

Vikki Goddard, Consulting Fellow at Halpin Partnership discusses the importance of strategy in an organisation and how to make it work.

So you’ve developed a strategy. It’s looking good, people are bought into it, the key points are included in your glossy version and communicated around your organisation. 

But how do you really make it meaningful? How does that high-level strategy become something that drives your actions and makes a difference?  As David Allen said in his recent blog for Halpin ‘so many well-meaning strategies fail because they’re never delivered’. 

Translating strategy into action is somewhere that many organisations fall down. Why does this happen? 

Is your strategy clear?

We often develop detailed engagement and communications plans so that (we hope) everyone in the organisation knows and understands the key points of the new strategy. In large organisations we know that communications are a challenge. 

If you want to get people to understand what you’re trying to do, it needs to be meaningful. That means, at a local level, managers understanding what their contribution is to achieving the strategy, and focussing on that in conversations. It’s not about glossy videos from the senior leaders and Town Hall-type events (although these have their place). 

How do I contribute?

The critical question, at all levels. This isn’t a one size fits all: Faculties, Departments, Professional Services Directorates, and the teams and people that constitute them should all be able to see what they are doing that delivers. This can be challenging, particularly if you are looking to disinvest in some areas. 

What about the planning process and KPIs?

Of course these have their place. But too often in delivering strategy we focus on the processes and metrics and not the real life implications and activities that need to change. It is often said that culture eats strategy for breakfast; I think it’s the delivery of strategy that gets consumed. If you are focussing on writing plans, assessing performance and asking people to explain why things are not happening, it takes away from progress and the achievements you are making.

In a recent blog for Halpin Dr Nicki Horseman noted the criticality of engaging people in strategy development. The same is true of delivery. Planning processes should be focussed on what contribution each part of the organisation is making, recognising that these will be different. Performance analysis should be celebrating success and supporting more tricky areas through everyday working. 

And this is where we are at the crux of the challenge: Is your strategy what your organisation delivers, or is it yet another piece of a very large jigsaw?