Taming Lions and Tigers in your Strategic Planning Circus

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It’s early morning when I arrive to the offices of one of my major clients at the time to connect with my partner on a big presentation we were delivering to executives.  We sit in the coffee shop near the lobby to review our slides and ensure all of our key messages are there. We were going big with a cool and flashy theme:

Achieving your Strategy by Optimizing of Your Strategic initiatives Portfolio!

As we start going through the slides a heated debate erupts around traceability of initiatives to strategic objectives and the multidimensional relationships of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of objectives and projects.  Once we realized that we are running out of time we put the debate aside for a later time and compromised on how we will present the relationships hoping to god that the client will not drill into that level of detail.

We get ushered into the conference room and start setting up as executives and senior managers start filing in and sitting down.  After pleasantries and the usual round of introductions we go through our presentation and we feel like a million bucks! The flow is good, the engagement is good, the mood is upbeat, and we are feeling pretty good about ourselves.

Then one senior manager turns to me and asks: why should I bother with strategic initiatives? Aren’t processes good enough to deal with innovating and delivering products to my customers?  Flabbergasted, I turn to my partner who also turned a certain shade of blue and before we could answer the question pandemonium broke out in the room and our Million Bucks feeling tanked into negative territory as the circus rolled in!  Executives and managers were arguing and debating definitions, concepts, strategic direction, financials, and everything in between.

It dawned on us that these guys don’t have a solid Strategy that is clearly defined, understood, communicated, and shared with the rest of the organization.  Sounds familiar?  I believe this is the case in more organizations than people would want to admit.

Needless to say a well communicated strategy is more effective than one which remains on slide decks and printed on banners that cover walls.  An experienced Strategy Architect plays the facilitator with executives and managers to articulate the strategy using architecture.

A good starter set of Strategy Components to get a handle on would be Vision, Mission, values, Goals,  Objectives, & top level KPIs against those objectives.  Strategic Architecture examines these components and the relationship between them and establishes a common understanding between them.

Click Here to download a Visual Diagram.

The relationship diagram explains how the components influence each other and starts to establish the common understanding between the different stakeholders in the organization.  Albeit the model is high-level but it can be driven down into further detail by defining the components that are critical to the enterprise.
Examples of additional components can include:
  • Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats (SWOT)
  • Political, Economical, Social, Technical, Environmental, & Legal (PESTEL)
  • Markets & Segments
  • Customers & Segments
  • Operational KPIs (Process)
  • Initiative KPIs
If you subscribe to the idea in this blog, what would be a possible way to go about developing your Strategic Architecture?
  • Agree to the most critical components, their definition, and the planning horizon
  • Develop the relationships between these components
  • Achieve consensus on the current & desired states of the organization by modeling
  • Share these models during planning sessions & refine the common understanding
  • Publish and share the models frequently
Strategy Architects need to exercise caution and good judgement when engaging with executives.  If they don’t posses domain expertise they should be content with facilitating the brainstorming session using models and relationships.  Otherwise they can offer advice and add content and domain expertise to the exercise.
To go back to the circus that erupted in the conference room, having a Strategy Architect or at least the Strategy Models in that discussion it would have brought everybody back to the topic at hand.  The meeting could have continued on the importance of the initiatives portfolio for the achieving the KPIs of the organization.
So do you have a well defined Strategy Architecture and are do you finding benefits from its use?
Fadi Hindi

Author: Fadi Hindi

Fadi is an Executive Leader with a proven track record of bringing large Transformation Programs to the market and providing thought leadership globally in the areas of Innovation & Strategic Planning. He has over 22 years of experience across multiple industries including Financial Services, Consumer Products, Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals, & Government (Federal & State). Span of Expertise include Management Consulting, Executive Management, Executive Board Advisor, Organizational Change Management, & Business Development. He founded the Strategy & Enterprise Architecture Society (SEAS) Inc. a not-for-profit organization incorporated near the Research Triangle Park (RTP) area in Raleigh, NC. Fadi won numerous awards including the Forrester/InfoWorld/Penn State University EA 2013 Global Award, CIO20 award, He is also a public speaker at global conferences including Gartner, Forrester, ID World, Gitex, & others.

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