Leading Strategically With Information

It is not possible to lead strategically by our definition without leading with information. That may mean that we have to collect, process and analyze a lot of data as part of our leadership. However, it may also mean that our role as leadership coaches is to ask questions that cause the team members to do the collecting, processing and analysis. In this case, our role is to ensure that the team has done this work, not necessarily to deal with the numbers ourselves.

Possible questions that we can ask to ensure that our teams are using information to lead strategically:

  • What is your goal in numerical terms? Where are you now in those terms?
  • What rate of progress are you making to date towards your goal?
  • Are you on track to meet your goal given where you are now, and the rate of progress that you are making to date?
  • What are the different alternative routes to reach your goal, and how does the rate of progress towards the goal differ for each of those alternatives?
  • Show me that you are making the most effective progress towards your goal.

Good Summary Presentation on Strategic Planning and Management

Please see here a presentation made through the Association for Strategic Planning  yesterday.

This is the best summary presentation on strategic planning management tools and techniques that I have seen to date. It covers all of the key tools and theories from the last 30 years. Please note that this is strategic planning and management, not strategic leadership. Despite this difference, I think that this is a really useful summary of key tools for those practicing strategic leadership.

The good news is that nearly all of the key things mentioned in this presentation are available in our organization. Note my choice of words there 🙂

This presentation is reproduced here with kind permission from the presenter, Randy Rollinson, who you can contact at:

Randall Rollinson, President, LBL Strategies, Ltd.

www.lblstrategies.com, www.strategyprocenter.com

rrollinson@lblstrategies.com

Macro Strategy and Mega Trends

Read this and reply. I want your ideas on how the world is changing.

At the highest level, a global organization’s (like ours) macro level strategy should address the biggest trends that are occurring across the globe.

I’ve reviewed a number of lists of global mega-trends. You can find a summary of them here. Of course, each list has its focus, based upon the audience that it serves, from political leaders to financial investors to industry specialists. If you have the time, I recommend you read the US National Intelligence Council’s report on Global Trends 2030.

Despite the various audiences, there are a number of trends that most of the lists highlight. The themes that occur the most frequently across these 14 inputs are as follows, in order of frequency, most frequent first:

  1. Information and communications technology.
  2. Aging, and impact of an aging population
  3. Increased energy needs and supply
  4. Climate change
  5. Water & food scarcity
  6. Urbanization / mega-cities
  7. Power shift from West to East
  8. Globalization
  9. Individualization
  10. Growth of the middle class

Do you agree with this list? What do you think are the biggest changes occurring around the world? Leave a reply please.

Actual Results From Focusing On Strategy

This year we saw actual positive results from focusing on our strategy.

For the first time in 3 years we have seen an increase in the number of countries with new spiritual movements launched. This is the outcome from our Mission, and directly leads us towards our Vision. I do not believe that this has happened by accident, but that it is the result of 3 years of focus on one thing by senior leadership across about 170 countries.

Key lessons I learned from this success:

  • Focus on one thing.
  • For years and years.
  • Don’t change the focus, and don’t change the rules. People can’t keep up with our ability to create change.
  • Keep it simple – both the strategy, and the process for turning the strategy into something that people can execute day to day.
  • Be consistent in messaging world-wide.
  • Review progress frequently (we aimed at bi-weekly, but we probably ended up with monthly).
  • Don’t allow your ability to think of new things to do distract you from the most important one thing.
  • Don’t let up. I had an old boss who used to say “Don’t let them grind you down!”, although he used an expletive before the object of the sentiment to reinforce the point.
  • Public accountability keeps even independent minded people focused on group goals.

I have been writing this blog now for nearly 2 years as I have been trying to figure out how to help 16,000 people spread across nearly 170 countries lead strategically. I hope that the fact that we have seen some success encourages you to stick to the strategy and use the strategic planning process to keep focused on the long term goal.

Overseeing Implementation Of Strategies

Over the last 2 months I’ve received the national plans or national objectives from 70 different countries for our organization, along with plans from 11 regional leadership teams. This is a record for us. So, what next?

These plans vary from a summary of the philosophy of their work, to short list of objectives, through lists of key action items, to comprehensive lists of key actions with dates, resources and finances allocated. However, the important thing is not the plan, but the execution of the plan.

So, if you are a leader, how are you going to ensure that the plan gets executed?

Different teams are taking different approaches, for example:

  • Some teams have taken a “4 Disciplines of Execution” approach, with weekly reviews of lead measurements, lag measurements, and actions.
  • Other teams are holding bi-weekly reviews of progress towards targets.
  • Other teams plan to hold monthly reviews of completion of actions, and progress towards goals.
  • Other teams will review widely accessible dashboards.

The important thing is that progress is being monitored, and if insufficient progress is being made, that corrective action is taken. A long time ago I shared that I thought the hardest question that a leader can ask someone who is working with them is: Show me that you are making the most effective progress towards your goal. The implications of this being asked by a leader are that the leader will listen to an answer from time to time to see this “most effective progress”.

So, have you:

  • allocated regular time in your calendar to review progress against the plan in the coming year;
  • made this the priority in your calendar so that it does not get usurped by the urgent;
  • figured out how you are going to do this when you are travelling or otherwise away from your normal routine;
  • made sure that the team executing the plan has allocated time to review its progress with you over the coming year?

Creating Personas to Help Define Strategy

Do you know who the consumer is that your strategy is trying to serve? Is your strategy defined around your history, or the anticipated needs of the person you want to serve?

During the last couple of weeks I have been helping some of my colleagues who lead digital strategies to develop their personas. What is a persona?

  • In digital tool development a persona is a fictional character that communicates the primary characteristics of a group of users who use your website, social media feed or application.
  • Personas help software development teams understand their audience. They provide insights about the attitudes, behaviors, thought processes, challenges and desires of those being reached and served.
  • Personas inform what kind of content the developers need to create and where they publish it. They also give insight and direction for wording, images, tone and design.

When developing a digital tool personas are needed because:

  • if the customer is always right, you need to know who your customer is, and
  • you need to be constantly thinking about who is visiting your website, social media feed or application so that you design and use the tool to best meet the needs of the user.

We started discussing when in the development process someone would create their personas. There are parts of developing strategy for a digital program that have to be done prior to developing personas, e.g. basic market segmentation. However, if personas are developed as soon as the market has been segmented, then personas can really help develop the whole of the rest of the strategy.

The realization was that developing personas should not just apply to software development. Personas can significantly help develop corporate and departmental strategies. Thinking things through from the point of view of the customer can really help determine what your response could be to meeting a customer’s need, and how to differentiate that response. If that is not development of a strategy, then what is?

This applies in the organization in which I work as well as commercial corporate organizations. How often do we develop strategy from our point of view (typically what can we do to increase the amount of what we did last year?), rather than think afresh of the people we are trying to reach or serve, and developing new strategies to reach / serve them from their point of view?