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How to Refresh Your Strategy and Get Results

How to refresh your strategy and get results – 4 steps to success

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Strategic plans rarely survive first contact with reality! But a strategy refresh can bring your leadership team together to evaluate progress and course correct where needed. It’s common for the everyday tasks of business to overwhelm the importance of strategic reflection, but it’s vital to ensure your strategy and actions remain aligned with your company’s future goals. Right now may be the perfect time to consider a strategy refresh.

As executive teams reflect on their traditional strategy and business model, many are also considering their potential impact beyond traditional stakeholders. A strategy refresh can provide an opportunity to evaluate how focusing on economic, social, and environmental impact could generate a greater competitive advantage in the market and a more motivated workforce.

No matter where you are on your strategy execution journey, here is a brief overview of how you can perform a strategy refresh that sets up your teams and employees for success.

Is it the right time for a Strategy Refresh?

Since you’re reading this article, it’s likely you’re already evaluating your current strategy. That’s good news, because many companies don’t realise a comprehensive strategy refresh is needed until it’s too late. Common indicators that it might be the right time for a refresh include:

  • External shocks – Something powerful is happening within your market, industry, or regulatory environment.
  • Internal shocks – Hiring of a new CEO or leadership team members, or discovering that employee engagement is low, turnover is high, or both.
  • Your strategic initiatives aren’t generating the results you want to achieve.

If any of these indicators resonate with you, it might be the right time to refresh your strategy. Begin discussing the idea with your leadership team and outline a plan to:

  • Assess your environment.
  • Review your internal capabilities.
  • Prioritise what needs to change.
  • Develop concrete action and communication plans to address changes.

1. Assess your environment

Now that you’ve committed to a strategy refresh, it’s time to revive your team’s knowledge of the world surrounding your business and reinvigorate their engagement with the strategy. What’s happening with your customers, competitors, adjacent industries, regulatory policies, and political climate? What are the largest changes that have occurred since your last assessment? Traditional tools like PESTEL and SWOT analyses can help you get your leadership team on the right track. Arrange a meeting to discuss these points and ensure you walk away with the three to five most urgent and important issues – this consultative process and agreement is critical to keeping your strategy refresh targeted.

2. Review internal capabilities

After you’ve spent time understanding the context within which you do business, it’s time to look inward. The hardest and most important element of this is being honest about where things stand. Did your organisation take on too many initiatives at once? Are employees equipped with the training or tools they need to execute the strategy? A good way to begin identifying problems is to reflect on the progress you’ve made along your strategic path. Where did you think you would be and what is stopping you from getting there? Discovering problems is not a bad thing – in fact, it’s the first step towards real progress.

3. Prioritise what needs to change

Now that you’ve had a comprehensive look at your organisation’s external and internal situations, it’s important not to let this work go to waste. Much like the previous two steps, there are several actions that must be taken to prioritise the key changes for your organisation.

Perhaps the most important step is to bring together your current leaders and high-flying future leaders – they are the ones who will bring the enthusiasm for change and the hunger to get it done. Create the future together. Facilitate a meeting with that team to identify three to five critical, strategic change issues that must be addressed.

Once great example of a company that gained tremendous value from a strategy refresh is a regional energy provider and former client of ours. This cooperative decided their ultimate vision was to provide economic and social value to their members. Initially they achieved significant results from their strategy, an impressive score of 88 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) – five points above the average. However, after two years of operating under the new strategy, their score had dropped to 83.

The leadership team decided it was time to conduct a Strategy Refresh. After completing SWOT analyses and identifying major resource gaps, the organisation was able to understand its constraints in each mission-critical area. By researching their external environment (customer needs), being honest about internal capabilities (resource gaps), and focusing on these key changes, the leadership was able to measure and grow the success of their strategy. One key change implemented as a result of this process was the development of a mobile app that allows members to report power outages and pay bills online. Efforts like this eventually boosted the organisation’s ASCI score from 83 to a whopping 96.

4. Develop concrete action and communication plans to address changes

As mentioned above, identifying what needs to change isn’t enough. What will ultimately drive your organisation’s success is implementing these changes through concrete plans. Whether it’s a new idea for an app to report power outages, or an innovative way to enhance your supply chain in emerging economies, it’s important to develop and test efforts that will drive measurable success.

However, launching initiatives (or large scale “change projects”) isn’t enough. A successful strategy refresh has occurred when you have:

  • Launched new initiatives.
  • Communicated the strategy throughout the organisation.
  • Reinvigorated your strategy review process.

While each component is easier said than done, they are essential for a successful strategy refresh. Without launching new initiatives, communicating them in a way each employee can understand and execute, and developing a process to measure and adjust strategic progress, the process is in danger of being seen as a colossal waste of time!

Performing a strategy refresh can be a daunting task, but it will give your organisation the boost it needs to achieve your vision. A refresh done right will give you an honest picture of your organisation’s limitations and the most effective ways to address them. The refresh will generate a competitive advantage, motivate employees, identify clear actions, and most importantly, deliver impressive results.

For more information visit our Strategy page.