Managing Strategic Efforts

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 05-26-17

How do you measure your strategic imperatives? It depends on the type of strategy. Here is a 2×2 grid to help you evaluate alternative types of strategies, and what is important to pay attention to in order to ensure success. Once you have your strategies, you have to manage them. You must pay attention to ensure success. Ultimately, you want to make the strategic tactical, with a high enough cadence that you do not lose momentum.

On the vertical axis is how much we know about what it takes to be successful. Some goals are just choices that need to be executed. Some goals are explorations that we don’t even know if we can be successful. It’s not one or the other, but a continuum. On the horizontal axis is how success is realized. Some are achieved over time; each step realizes gain. Weight loss in steps of progress, for example. Other outcomes are realized only at the end after much progress and effort. You don’t launch 1/3 of an innovation or open ½ a new location.

Where you fall on the grid determines the best means to monitor and manage the progress of the strategic effort.

On the lower left is the closest to pure tactical execution. It is something you know how to do, and daily execution will deliver your results. This could be safety, as an example, where discipline in behaviors, equipment, and PPE will give you results. This must be managed with regular focus on the performance and drivers of performance, with the same cadence and discipline that performance can deteriorate under.

On the lower right, you know what the work is, so your focus is still on execution. Your managing of the strategic project focus on tasks completion.

The top-half is where things are generally more difficult. We’re used to managing performance and projects. But this is the realm of the unknown, where learning must be a central part of achieving strategic success. This means that simply managing the execution will not be sufficient.

In the upper left, this is about daily execution of performance, but an area that requires learning. For example, let’s say you were a company who marketed and then took orders, but now you wanted to begin a deliberate sales effort. This is a skill, a process, and a set of tactics. What’s going to work? If you approach this like you do a known performance area, you will set up a metric-like number of outbound calls, execute flawlessly, and get no results. The most essential activity to drive this type of strategic objective is reflection. What is working? What is not working? What will we differently? You cannot just measure, you must learn.

In the upper right, you are still learning, but when dealing with a new approach, there will be several forks in the road. Clearly defining the decisions you need to make along the path, and the when, who, and how of making those decisions. Making timely and well-informed decisions is the essential task in managing learning through these projects.

This grid will help you sort out how to tactically manage the work of your strategic imperatives. But the key question is this: what is the most important activity in advancing each strategy, and where, when, how, and how will we perform that activity?