Developing more traction in strategic growth and renewal

How can you radically accelerate the implementation of strategic initiatives? What challenges do you need to take into account? How can you successfully realise strategic change and growth?

Development of growth opportunities is a high-stakes endeavour for management teams. They are challenged to take the right decisions, but in uncertain circumstances they have little appetite for risk, and the time available for making decisions is limited. What happens after decisions are made? What about the subsequent implementation of strategic initiatives and the pursuit of strategic growth ambition?

Where problems occur

In the strategy process, the management team singles out promising ideas for implementation and commits them to paper. Ambitious strategic goals often seem reachable and realistic in theory; however, making this ambition a reality depends primarily on the right implementation of strategic initiatives.

We regularly observe the following pattern in strategy work; as soon as strategic initiatives enter the implementation phase, top management teams hand over direct control of the process and sometimes even lose control of the venture altogether. This is remarkable, as strategic initiatives in general require a reallocation of substantial re-sources; expectations are therefore high and lead to the exposure of decision-makers. The following causes can be identified:

Operational daily business gains the upper hand

Decision-makers have a lot on their desk, and operative challenges require immediate solutions. The voice of strategic tasks is often not as loud and thus can go unheard.

Strict planning delays project launch

Managers are generally masters in planning and analysis. In many companies, good project management is synonymous with very precise planning and implementation. However, strategic initiatives often face uncertainty at various levels, and such a project culture is not conducive to a successful execution.

Top management interest dwindles

Many management teams enjoy the role of decision-maker; however, they are reluctant to get personally involved in the often tedious business of strategy implementation.

Major sponsors leave the responsibility to others

Many promoters and sponsors of initiatives delegate project work entirely to the next management level, which often feels abandoned and insufficiently guided. Moreover, the infrequent steering committee meetings often take a political character and do not fill the leadership vacuum.

Ad hoc project organisation hinders decision-making

Sensible project management can often fail due to the crammed schedules of decision-makers, if meetings need to be reorganised or shifted). A general jour fixe for steering committees is often missing, and in some cases this leads to almost identical committees meeting in quick succession, instead of discussing several initiatives at a single meeting. The fear of boring a committee member momentarily ultimately leads to an inefficient decision-making process.

Initiatives are discussed in isolation

Individual initiatives are often viewed separately during the planning and implementation process. Hence, correlations and dependencies at a higher level remain hidden, leading to inefficiencies and ineffectiveness in the overall system.

What we recommend

Companies that design and implement their strategy in a dynamic and agile way will avoid the above patterns and blockades. They can do so by following these guiding principles:

  1. Portfolio meetings. Shift project decisions from ad hoc steering committees to regular portfolio meetings, during which individual projects can be discussed in depth, accomplished milestones can be acknowledged, and the next project stage released.
  2. Resource allocation. Ensure flexible resource allocation by jointly prioritising and adjusting projects and aligning the portfolio initiatives with the ambition.
  3. Design of strategic projects. Shape strategic projects in a way that ensures relevant insights can be gained rapidly. It is crucial to design strategic projects dynamically to allow continuous adjustments and even termination, if necessary.
  4. Exchange of experience. Foster a dialogue to exchange knowledge, experience and insights within the management team and collectively derive relevant conclusions for future initiatives.
  5. Sponsors. Appoint sponsors within the management team to advocate specific initiatives among their peers during the decision meetings. The sponsors are responsible for their initiatives and assume the role of sparring partners for the project leaders.
  6. Tasks, competencies and responsibilities. Manage tasks, competencies and responsibilities in the organisation in such a manner that decisions can be made for all substantive questions during the initiative discussion or shortly after.
  7. Control. Establish a transparent and regular monitoring system for the implementation of strategic initiatives. Delegation of the control process to a dedicated project office allows the management team to focus on content and decision-making.

How we tackle the challenge

At Implement, we increase our clients’ strategic agility by helping them to establish the appropriate processes and instruments on three levels. At the level of individual initiative, our GRIND methodology enables us to significantly accelerate initiative development. At portfolio level, our IPM (initiative portfolio management) strategy allows the right prioritisation of initiatives and ensures alignment with the growth ambitions. At a broader level, we regularly examine the growth ambitions of our clients and verify their strategic guidelines. Strategic agility increases the dynamic aspect of strategy at all levels of an organisation and thus challenges the “consider it done” attitude often found in management teams across all industries.