It’s coming up to the new fiscal year in the United Kingdom (and many other parts of the world). It’s the time of the year when most companies start thinking about next year’s strategy. Typically, medium to large sized companies will book away-days for the executive team to free up their time to ‘think’. Question: does this mean they don’t think during the rest of the year? Answer: It was not a flippant question; the truth is they do not think about strategy during the rest of the year. And this is a problem.
One of the reasons small companies grow quickly is because everyone is constantly thinking about strategy. They are focussed on business growth and improvement above everything else. Yes, they are small enough to make changes quickly and try new things easily, but it is the strategic mind-set that makes the difference.
Larger companies get bogged down in day-to-day operational business and make the mistake of handing over the ‘job’ of strategy to an elite few. These people try their best to come up with great ideas. In the end, they spend more time trying to convince the board, and then the company, to implement the great ideas they have come up with.
Strategy needs to be embedded into the company culture. Everyone need to be involved and thinking about how things can be improved. Improvements may not be about making money. In not-for-profit or government organisations improvement, can be about reaching stakeholders or helping citizens.
Here are five things you can do to help embed strategy into your culture:
- Include subject matter experts in strategy formulation – strategy is not only the domain of the executive team or top management. Include people from the shop-floor who understand the business. A comforting by-product of this action will be greater buy-in from all areas of the organisation.
- Solicit strategy ideas from staff through social media – like it or not, social media is part of our lives. Use your internal social media mechanisms to ask for ideas from everyone. They might not come up with anything new, but they will feel part of the process if their idea is adopted.
- Communicate your strategy through a simple diagram – strategy does not have to be complicated, in fact it should not be. Aim to publish your strategy on one diagram on a single page.
- Include your strategic measures in monthly reports – nearly all companies and organisations report monthly to management. These reports tend to be about sales and operations. Start adding strategic measures to the reports and label them as strategic. A strategy is a living thing; it should be seen constantly and monitored regularly.
- Publish your strategic wins frequently – people like to hear good news. Publish all your good news with a strategic twist. Get people used to the idea that your success has come about because of good strategic thinking.
Taking time out to develop a strategy is not a bad thing. It only becomes a bad thing when it is not inclusive. Clearly larger companies or organisations cannot include everyone in the discussions, but that does not mean they are excluded entirely. A few simple changes can make a huge difference to the way a company is perceived by its employees.