Companies Are Strategic When They Understand the Process

“The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew”

(Robert Burns, “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough”, 1785)

If poet Robert Burns were a CEO in today’s operating environment, we expect he’d use that line…often. In fact, is there a better way to manage expectations for a strategic plan with leaders and staff?

One quality which highly effective companies share is having a well-thought-out strategy in place. But having “The Plan” does not ensure success…just ask Robert. When a strategic plan is crafted, the easy work is done and strategic management begins. Company leadership, managers and staff must understand strategic management is a process each has a role in.

What is Strategic Management?

To understand what precisely strategic management is, here’s how the International Association for Strategy Professionals (IASP) defines the term in the association’s Body of Knowledge (BOK 2.0):

“Strategic management is an organization’s process of continuous planning, executing, monitoring, analyzing and assessing all that is necessary for an organization to meet its goals and objectives in pursuit of a future direction.”

Further along in the body of knowledge comes nuts and bolts information detailing deliverables and responsibilities tied to strategic management. This includes an elegantly crafted paragraph entitled “Strategic Management System Scope”:

“For any strategic planning effort to be successful all parties must understand that execution of the strategy must actually occur. To increase the probability of achieving success, strategy practitioners must help their client define what organizational and leadership success looks like from the outset. Key elements to be included are employees’ alignment behind a shared vision and key stakeholders’ investment in the strategy. Operationally, work is prioritized, process improvements are taking place, job descriptions are linked to the strategy, accountabilities are defined and understood, and two-way communications are valued and practiced. Finally, a well-designed measurement system is in place and being used.”

There you go, strategic management sets a strategic plan in motion via a managed process meant to ensure leadership decision-making is based on evaluating results (i.e. strategy performance), monitoring progress towards achieving stated goals and future destination (i.e. the company’s vision) and making course corrections as needed (i.e. ☹ this is not working). And if staff aren’t up to speed with the process, their roles and responsibilities in it and expected outcomes benefiting the organization and people in it, then strategy will, as Burns penned, go askew.

How Invested are Your Employees?

Strategic management provides your managers and employees with perspective on how their roles fit into the organization. With this understanding, employees can relate their actions to the success of the business. When employees see how their job is contributing to the growth of the company, it’s much more likely they’ll be satisfied with what they do and committed to pushing the company forward.

For employees to reach this high level of understanding about their role and how it fits into the objectives of the business, their managers need to be able to exhibit strategic leadership. Strategic leadership refers to a manager’s ability to express your company’s strategy and motivate others to acquire that vision.

Strategic leadership is born out of a deep understanding of strategic management. When everyone in your organization is on the same page, working toward an unambiguous goal, then there’s less room for misunderstandings and discontent.

Furthermore, a positive, transparent workplace created by a shared strategic vision presents a greater companywide understanding of the direction the company should go, helping to further refine your strategy.

How Do You Capitalize on Business Opportunities?

When managers and employees have a clear understanding of your company’s goals, they also have a better picture of where the business stands in the competitive landscape. So, when opportunities in the market present themselves, it’s easier for your business to be strategically agile to capitalize on these openings.
A classic example is the newspaper industry. The papers that practiced strategic management likely had an easier time moving their product to the Internet than organizations where employees didn’t understand the goals of the organization beyond writing articles under deadline and putting the paper to bed. Employees that only see the business through their tasks have a harder time adjusting when things need to change.

Rallying your entire organization to change course isn’t easy, but when you’re practicing strategic management, your employees will have a better understanding of why the change needs to happen and be eager to contribute.

How Do You Measure Financial Success?

Companies that can quickly jump on new market developments — or even invent a new direction themselves — will be at a significant advantage over organizations that are slower to make big decisions. Studies show that when companies practice strategic management they are more profitable and successful. It’s no surprise that over 100,000 businesses fail in the US each year when 70% of leaders spend on average one day a month reviewing strategy and 85% of leadership teams spend less than an hour per month discussing strategy.

Furthermore, 77% of successfully executing companies effectively translate their strategy into operational mechanisms and monitor day-to-day progress. In contrast, firms that do not engage themselves in meaningful strategic planning are often bogged down by internal problems and lack of focus that leads to failure.

To sum this up, managers practicing strategic management are better positioned to negate internal problems and keep the organization moving forward toward success.

How Managers Can Learn the Strategic Management Process

There many respected theories, practices and tools one must be exposed to learning the process and applying it to an organization. That’s why we’ve created coursework that immerses you in the complete strategic management process by breaking it down into the manageable steps for planning, implementation and evaluation. Known formally as the Strategic Management Performance System, SMPS or “Mastering Strategy” for short, is exec level continuing professional education that delivers “process driven” understanding and practical tools to those who currently manage or lead strategic planning and implementation along with those desiring to develop skills to take on more responsibilities tied to strategic management.

Our next cohort of the Mastering Strategy “live online” instructor-led format launches September 11th and runs consecutive Tuesday afternoons (4:00-5:30 pm Central US) through November 13th. Interested in learning more? Click here for more information and to sign up

LBL Strategies Team