5 things we should consider when strategising

Research tells us that less than a third of business strategies deliver the expected results. This isn’t hard to believe when we see that most strategies are top-down, have limited employee involvement, are only based on historical data analysis, and are staged as one big show with no real choices being made. Isn’t it time to do things differently?


March 2016


Martin Lyngaa Simonsen

Albert Einstein couldn’t have put it better when he said: “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” At Implement, we have embarked on a journey to make strategy simpler, more engaging and more effective. With over 20 years of creating the best foundation for strategy design and implementation, we’ve encountered most of the classic pitfalls that lead to less than optimal results. Most of them are repeat offenders.

Here are five tips on how to build a foundation that delivers the desired Change with Impact:

  1. Involve your people – Research shows that 59% of employees think that strategy is done above some sort of ‘imaginary line’ in the organisation. As well as involving sponsors and decision-makers, we need to engage employees who will act as ambassadors. Stakeholders who have a key role in making change happen within the organisation as well as with our customers. Strategists of the future will be brilliant problem-solvers and empathic change agents.
  2. Make real choices – Sometimes strategy turns into what we might call ‘corporate theatre’: a big show with no real choices being made. We need to engage key employees and leaders in an extensive process of workshops and meetings. But in reality, we don’t make any real decisions or provide guidance. The strategy needs to be clear about what to do and not to do. Real choices about how to win customers and how to get there.
  3. Use relevant data – Basing new choices on historical data analysis is a bit like having your eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror while driving your car. The strategy needs to combine insightful analysis with creative thinking. In other words, we look ahead to get an overview and spot opportunities that could be the foundation for strategic options. By using our intuition to drive our choices, we also become more focused on where to look for relevant data.
  4. Have a dialogue – Research shows that 30% of employees receive no information about how to execute the strategy. Learning comes from employee interaction and engagement and helps us to overcome fear and resistance. The first step in changing behaviour starts with conversations and dialogue about what working differently looks like in practice. This not only sets out what we want to change, but why it’s important to change, how we will change, what that means to each employee, and what is expected of them in their (new) role.
  5. Set clear expectations – Research shows that only 7% of employees know and understand the company strategy and what is expected of them. Companies tend to regard their employees as being ‘out of the loop’, with management only telling them what they need to do. This means that the strategy lacks meaning and never reaches front-end employees. We need to think about what the relevant choices are for each level of the organisation. We then need to make those choices clear, and what choices we expect the next level in the organisation to make.

Design thinking: a new approach

At Implement, we are inspired by great thinkers – some of whom you might have come across if you’ve attended our thought leader events over the years (such as Roger Martin, Daniel Pink, Clayton Christensen and Alexander Osterwalder). This approach to strategy is about applying design thinking: a great way of developing strategy with impact used by a number of large global companies. Design thinking is about making strategy more effective by making better choices and being more efficient. Zooming in on the critical issues that drive company performance.