A prospective client proudly mentioned in conversation that he had always facilitated their annual strategy session with his senior leadership team. When questioned on how effective it was, he smiled and said “I know what I want the outcome to be so it’s done in half a day.”
Efficient? Perhaps. Effective? Not really.
Beware the false economy that is ever present when considering value purely through a pricing lens.
This CEO’s senior leadership team considered their strategy planning process to be a waste of their time. Sure, they could influence the periphery of the strategy but admitted their engagement in executing the “CEO’s strategy” was less than passionate. They were very good at developing and implementing their own business plans but complained that they were struggling to work cohesively as a team and attract and retain good middle managers.
Aligning all the divisional plans back to the strategy and tracking their progress on big initiatives required the CEO to drive it which created decision bottlenecks. They lacked autonomy and accountability, which created unnecessary friction.
Why is it worth investing in an experienced strategy consultant, gathering your senior management team offsite and springing for lunch? Here are 6 points to think about:
- Brains Trust: The senior leadership team, including the CEO, bring a lot of the company and industry experience to the table. It is the combination of their insights, wisdom and experience that creates valuable creative tension, challenging, probing and bubbling to the surface the core issue, threats and opportunities that the business needs to focus on to succeed. If the CEO or any other senior executive is not fully engaged in the strategy planning process, a suboptimal result is guaranteed.
- Facilitation Expertise: Experienced strategy consultants have the skills, experience and tools to lead complex discussions, manage group dynamics, and keep the group focused on the task at hand. They know how to ask the right questions, encourage participation, have a large kitbag of business planning and decision-making tools to draw upon and keep the conversation moving forward. This can help ensure that your strategy planning session is productive and efficient.
- Cross Industry Insights: “Our industry is special” is a phrase every strategy consultant has heard many times. Indeed, every industry is special, but they have more in common than not. Working across industries, with a large number of businesses and leaders, strategy consultants see firsthand the emerging trends and issues and can discover your blind spots, threats and opportunities from other industries.
- Helicopter View: Senior leaders are focused on their own department or responsibilities and even the CEO has biases and perspectives that inhibit a truly open big picture view of the organisation. A good strategy is coherent, ties together all the important pillars together, supports the company’s purpose/mission and creates a clear narrative that can be communicated to all current and prospective employees. A strategy consultant knows how to maintain a strategic, not operational perspective, keep the conversation out of the weeds and on the issues that matter most.
- Increased Accountability: A great strategy consultant has mastered the art of distilling down the strategy and turning it into a clearly articulated document with actionable and measurable objectives together with a Strategy on a Page summary – something that everyone in the organisation can understand and can execute on. The strategy facilitator will ensure that strategy has clear objectives, key results and people assigned accountability for delivery with tangible deadlines. They can also provide follow-up support, helping to ensure that your strategy is implemented effectively and efficiently.
- Improved Decision-Making: Strategy consultants can help improve decision-making by ensuring that all relevant information is considered, and by guiding discussions towards a clear and well-defined strategy. They can also help to manage conflict and build consensus, ensure everyone gets to speak and is heard and pick up on issues that may be important but not particularly eloquently expressed, ensuring that everyone is aligned and committed to the strategy moving forward.
Some sports teams take the approach of having a player-coach role, combining two important roles that require two different skill sets into one. In an environment where there are few options this may be a convenient alternative.
Great strategy development requires the whole team to rock up on the day match fit, ready to give it their all. Strategy consultants are integral to delivering an optimal outcome and provide good return on investment when considering the cost of implementing a strategy that falls short of the mark and/or has less than 100% buy-in from the senior team.
Thinking about a better solution for your FY24 strategic planning? Contact Checkside for a coffee and a conversation (click here)