Initial strategy conversations take place in your organization when you share and explore your company’s strategy story with your employees. It is important to keep the strategy conversations going within your organization - the review of business performance results, and the assessment of strategic impact, provides you with the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Business performance measurement data, or your balanced scorecard, provide you with a wealth of information in this regard, however, data alone doesn’t tell you the complete story you need to properly answer the important question “Is our company executing our strategy as planned and is it having the impact we expect?”
You really need another layer of information to fully answer this question and this additional content comes from your people.
While this added intelligence is initially provided by the root cause analysis and commentary information that accompanies the business performance results presented in your balanced scorecard, this is just a starting point. Richer insights; innovative ideas and go forward action plan options; and decisions about changes in strategic direction can only come from the conversations your business performance results stimulate. Cross-functional discussion and exchange amongst your employees that is focused on the success and impact of your strategy execution investments, and the relevance of your strategy in a changing business environment, is where the ultimate value is for your organization. This is precisely why strategy-focused organizational conversation shouldn’t be an option for your company. The fact is that organizational conversations are essential if you wish to achieve your goals for profitable business growth in the most effective and efficient way.
While strategy conversations can, and should, take place across your organization anywhere, anytime, between anyone in your company, you need to create formal venues where you can orchestrate these discussions.
One such opportunity is in regular business performance/balanced scorecard results review meetings. The primary objective of this meeting is to review the “health” of the strategic objectives on your strategy map. This objective enables a discussion of whether your company is executing your customer and business strategy as planned and whether your strategy is truly moving your company forward. Four questions are usually asked and answered in business performance/balanced scorecard meetings:
(1) How are our BSC indicators and strategic initiatives performing versus targets?;
(2) What are our results telling us about the health of our strategic objectives/our customer and business strategy?;
(3) What is our root cause analysis telling us about our critical business issues?; and
(4) What corrective actions are planned, what resources do they require, what impact to we hope they will have by when, and what business risks, or unforeseen business/operational impacts, are associated with our planned actions?
And while there are other questions that you could consider during these meetings, these are the ones you absolutely must cover during your conversations.
Not surprisingly, the way you run these meetings is as important as what gets covered. Your goal is to get a healthy, fulsome, no topic off the table type of discussion going that features a healthy exchange of insights and perspectives on what’s going on in your business. In my experience, the best business performance/balanced scorecard meetings happen when they are run as “open meetings” where anyone in the organization can attend and employees with ownership for strategic objective health and business performance results take a hands-on role in leading the conversations.
Running open meetings signals that everyone in your company has a role to play in the successful execution of your customer and business strategy. Open meetings give you an invaluable forum for information exchange, knowledge sharing, and integrated business solution and idea generation. Plus, open meetings help everyone in your organization make time for business strategy as part of their regular job/work activities but only if you actually give employees a way to get to these meetings. This is particularly challenging but important in the case of frontline workers but it just takes creative solutions to get past these hurdles. One example is taking meetings and discussions about business performance results and strategy execution right to the shop floor. Always think: what creative solutions can we employ to make our business performance/balanced scorecard meetings accessible to everyone in your company?
Another important formal venue for organizational conversation occurs during strategy execution progress reviews. Usually held on a quarterly basis, the objective of these meetings is to assess how your strategy is doing and whether anything needs to change. Five important questions should be asked and answered through these reviews:
(1) How have our strategic objectives been performing over the past quarter and what are the implications for strategy execution? (Are we moving forward?);
(2) What are our key strategic issues and what must we do to deal with them?;
(3) Have we got our business model right (is it driving the results we expect it to) or do we need to make changes?;
(4) What, if anything, is changing with our customers, with our competitors, and/or in our market and external operating environment and what impact could/should it have on our customer and business strategy?; and
(5) Is our customer and business strategy having the impact we expect/want or does something need to change?
Again, the how of this meeting matters as much as the what. The goal of all strategy execution progress review meetings is to explore the five questions through spirited conversation, discussion, and the honest and open exchange of perceptions, fact-based insights, and ideas. Needless to say, these meetings require the involvement of senior leadership team members, however, you can achieve an even higher quality meeting by driving for openness. For example, why not include the next layer of business leaders as attendees? What about subject matter experts? Business partners? External experts? Your customers? Feeling uneasy with these suggestions? Well, if it makes you feel better, don’t invite everyone to all parts of the meeting. Just be sure to push the openness barrier where it makes sense.
Always remember - having more people in on the strategy conversation on an ongoing basis always produces better results for your company.
Why? Quite simply because organizational conversation is the “grease” that always makes the strategy execution feedback loop turn faster, accelerating your strategy execution success and enabling a more efficient and sustainable cycle of constant improvement in the customer and financial outcomes achieved by your company.
This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book Business Results Revolution: 3 Critical Questions and the Conversations That Transform Business Performance Every Day Like what you’ve read? Please let me know. To add your name to the pre-order list for my book, just make your request via the comments section below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.