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Straight Talk on Business Strategy

Leaders need to achieve clarity around their strategies for their teams to execute effectively and efficiently. Stakeholders must have a clear understanding of what your business strategy is looking to accomplish and must be motivated to help them realize the vision. Additionally, they need to know what role they are going to play in the success of the strategy. Here are six tips on the practical challenges of implementing an effective business strategy.

Begin with a Solid Foundation

The best strategies have clearly defined components. Like any good story, there’s a beginning, a middle and an end with each section supported by the other. There shouldn’t be anything out of place or extraneous to the story.

When it comes to your presentations, make clear distinctions between facts, well-researched opinions, and legacy knowledge or experienced-based assumptions. People deciding on your strategy and other stakeholders don’t have the time or inclination to fact check your work. They deserve to know where your plan is thin and where it can probably help to strengthen it. 

A solid business strategy covers these bases:

  • How the strategy will create economic value for the business
  • Why the target market is profitable and will deliver growth over time
  • The operational model required to execute
  • The products, services and market shaping it will take to win
  • As a business developer, these are the critical components you need to know.

For more on how to build a solid business strategy foundation, check out this article from business.com.

Evangelize Your Business Strategy
Worthwhile strategies are seldom clear to stakeholders at the first iteration.

  • Seek out passive resisters and fringe stakeholders. Unlike impassive resisters, they will not seek you out.
  • In a mid-market company, typically EVERY LEADER is a stakeholder. A very common mistake is not taking your message cross-functionally to the extent that each department head understands what it is, how it works, what they will get from it and is prepared to support you.
  • People love to envision strategic outcomes, but financial outcomes get the resources flowing. When evangelizing to cross-functional leadership teams, be prepared to discuss the financial impacts of your strategy to the broader organization and support your projections with credible data.
  • The evangelizing can cease when the strategy is implemented through infant care and has become standard operating procedure. Until these milestones are reached, you risk folks forgetting the end-game and decelerating or disengaging. Be prepared and don’t let them.

Set Clear and Measurable First Steps
When setting first steps, work from the destination and not toward it. Always keep the end game in mind.

  • First steps should be within your capabilities. What is the best thing you can do now within your capabilities and constraints to move your business strategy forward?
  • Make sure people and resources are in place.
  • During the first steps, focus more on operating metrics than results.

Roadblocks are inevitable. A new product does not arrive at the right time, cost or specification. Unforeseen financial pressures cause a shift in organizational resources. Go-to-market teams and intermediaries are reluctant to engage or, worse, they resist. Early targets are missed, and less committed department heads in functions critical to the strategy’s success begin to posture for failure in their words or their dwindling operational support.

  • To a large extent, your ability to navigate these will rely on how well you evangelized the business strategy.
  • Be the first to identify the roadblock, understand it and deliver recommendations. At stressful times, your leadership team will follow you if they trust your ability to accurately assess conditions and mitigate or eliminate risk. Make sure your financial projections are realistic and continuously updated to reflect the best information available.
  • Universal support for a strategy is rare and passive-aggressive resisters can be particularly detrimental to it. When you encounter it, call it out. You may never convert them but at least they will know that YOU know where they are coming from.

Don’t Take Intervention Personally
At times, other leaders will need to be able to step into a situation and ask questions that will help their team members see things from a different perspective.

  • Invite them to take a closer look.
  • Discuss how they are doing now and how they could be contributing more or differently to the results.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of outside perspective. Senior leaders are tasked with business strategy development because they know the business best, but with that deep knowledge comes blind spots. The ability to engage other go-to-market and operational experts can hugely empower your strategy through data and how you tell your story to get the alignment and buy-in needed for success.

Stay the Course!
Implementation is the heart and soul of any great business strategy. The job of implementing is not done until the strategy is through infant care and normalized in the business. Like any major initiative, such as organization-wide austerity programs, efforts and results tend to wane over time. People and priorities change, and strategies never get to normalization.

Your work in the back half will be the ultimate determinant of success. While leadership must move forward and begin developing the next strategic moves, executive engagement must remain. Here are some ideas to keep make your implemented strategy stick and perform:

  • Continue to discuss and report out on performance metrics – don’t let your business strategy become so normalized into operational behavior that it begins to lose traction on performance.
  • Develop an agile internal task force to keep a pulse on execution and quickly resolve issues that arise.
  • Promote best practices developed in successful strategy execution and reference them in new projects.
  • Recognize key players that were crucial to the success of the implementation.

When the key components of the business strategy come together, execution will happen at a high level and intensity. Positive change will happen fast. It is imperative that you embrace your function as a leader and seek and maintain alignment and buy-in from your team and the broader organization.

Want to learn more about developing a solid business strategy? Check out our blog 6 Mis-Steps Companies need to Avoid when Entering a New Market. 

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