The Secret Sauce to Developing a Wildly Successful Strategy

secret sauce part 3 of strategy 14464004_s

Part 3 of 3

… it’s overly obvious and embarrassingly simple!

I’m on my way home after just finishing two days in NYC, one of my favorite places in the world, leading and facilitating a two-day strategy offsite with a growth hungry company and its leaders.  I want to help you and your team by sharing what we did to start the strategy session that had every executive, by the end, saying they felt focused, aligned, hopeful and excited about 2015.

The past two weeks, I’ve written about strategy – how to get started, why planning is still relevant (even though there is a body of work out there that would like you to believe otherwise) and what key questions you should ask to insure your strategy planning gets and keeps you focused.  If you did not see the previous two parts of this three-part series on strategy, check out “Strategic Planning Is Dead: What’s the Most Innovative Companies Are Doing About It” and “If Strategic Planning Is Dead, What Now?”

If you ask the wrong questions, you will get the wrong answers.  Nowhere is this more evident than in development of great strategy.  The decisions we make today do not usually play themselves out for months and sometimes years.  How we make decisions is often based on the questions we ask and answer today.

This week I want to share 11 questions I like to ask weeks before every strategy offsite. I use SurveyMonkey to gather and aggregate responses. I ask these questions to help identify where the team is or is not aligned, what the real or perceived issues are and to get a glimpse into where there is excitement and where there is potential conflict.

Try asking these 11 questions of every member of your planning team before you start your next strategy session. (Assure them their responses will be anonymous and kept confidential; you are only looking at trends and patterns that will help you facilitate the strategy offsite.)

  1. (PAST) What are the 2 or 3 critical factors or ways of thinking and/or behaving that led to your current situation and trajectory? Refuse to flinch or exaggerate…you cannot resolve a problem or predict a problem unless you have the courage to face the current facts squarely, whatever they are.
  2. (PRESENT) What research must be done to understand our current status? For Example: If your business was in trouble and you hired an outside consulting firm to come in to help, one of the first thing the consultants would do would be to determine your customers journey from the customers perspective, where there is real or perceived value, your exact levels of sales in every product/service area, the relative profitability of each of your products and services, the trends in each area, the amount of money you have and will have in the foreseeable future, and your position relative to your competition.
  3. (FUTURE) Clearly describe the ideal desired outcome for your business. Project forward three to five years and imagine that you and your business was perfect. I want you to put yourself into the future 5 years and write yourself a postcard that you will send back to your current day self to read. Be specific about your future goals and desired outcomes. (be prepared to read your postcard at the offsite) For instance:  What would your organization’s culture, values and personality look like? Who would your customers be, and where would they be located? How much product and/or services would you be selling five years from now? – How much would you be earning (gross and net)?  How many people would be working in your business?
  4. What is the one thing your organization did best this year? Is there a way to turn that success into a repeatable process or way of thinking/behaving?
  5. What is the one thing your organization was worst at this year? What single thing most needs to happen to fix it or not let it be repeated.
  6. Which department, division, team or function was most responsible for your organization’s success this year? Why and if it can be duplicated in other parts of the organization, how?
  7.  Which department, division, team or function was most responsible for standing in the way of your organization’s success this year? Why and is there something we can do about it?
  8. What is the single metric or measurement you least liked hearing about this year? What will you do to prevent the same thing happening next year?
  9. What is the single metric you will measure your success by (not how anyone else will measure your success (how you will measure your own success). What are you doing about it?
  10. If you fired yourself today, and came back tomorrow as the new boss with a clean sheet, what would be your top 3 or 4 priorities and what would you do first?
  11. If a perfect competitor opened up across the street from you tomorrow, what would they do to beat you this year and what would they be like?

I want to help you lead and grow your organization.  Please let me know if there are other topics you would like me to write about including more about strategy (e.g. how to lead and facilitate a strategy session, how to communicate the key initiatives of the strategy out to the organization to keep the signal strength, etc.). Please leave your questions or comments below.

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