When an organization has far too many strategic initiatives and projects underway, it will overload the organization’s capacity to produce them. Michael Porter wrote, “If the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do then the essence of execution is not doing it.”
That might sound simple, but the fact is most organizations struggle to kill initiatives, even those that no longer support the organization’s core strategy. How do I know this, you might ask? Well, after researching over 500 organizations with self-described strategic challenges, I have learned that the scale and speed of new product innovation are dramatically escalating, and that places enormous pressure on organizations to shift gears and identify new ways to compete.
Having this ability requires boldness and speed. What often holds back both is leadership’s disinclination to kill off questionable and unprofitable strategic initiatives and products. Not doing so can create an innovation challenge when the organization cannot keep pace with the world’s accelerating rate of innovation.
Five main steps to drive organizational health and growth:
- Define your business goal — not your goals — the most important goal you’ll develop for your future. It’s a lot easier to have 10 or 15 goals because it gets everyone busy, which gives the misimpression an organization is proceeding productively. But as research has proven, an organization with many primary vision goals will quickly become diffused and confused, and neither produces a healthy or growing organization.
- Talk with your current and prospective customers, preferably in person. Don’t hide behind Zoom screens if you want to get to the absolute truth. A strong dose of reality is needed when making a strategic change, and no one can provide you with more relevant direction than customers who know you well. Be prepared to question everything you’re doing; otherwise your discussions will end up with you defending your current direction, and that will get you right back to where you already are.
- Define your business strategy focused on achieving what you learned from your customer discussions. The difference between a good and bad strategy was summed up extremely well by Richard Rumelt in his book, GOOD STRATEGY BAD STRATEGY. In it he said, “Developing and implementing a strategy is the central task of any leader, whether they are CEO at a leading global company or head of a school.”
- Prioritize your business initiatives in a cascading order that objectively builds on each other. Don’t proceed to the next initiative until the one you’re working on is completed. The thought that the “Divide and Conquer” approach is a good one has destroyed more companies than I care to name. It’s not about getting everything done now! It’s about doing each thing with excellence and proving value and relevance throughout each development.
- Launch your strategic initiative so that all of your business departments are prepared to support the initiative. The heart of a good strategy comes from the knowledge of insights into how to turn a difficult situation into a good one.
The best strategies are simple and powerful. They’re easy to explain and understand and that makes them memorable. So, whether you are launching a new product, competing in a fierce marketplace, or trying to drive new revenue growth, keep it simple and to the point.