Element #1: Critical Reflection

Sometimes before you go forward, you have to look back.  In Japanese this is known as ‘hansei’ or the ability to deeply and critically reflect, typically on several fronts: ‘where have you been?’, ‘where are you now?’, and ‘where are you heading’?   This includes an honest assessment of problem areas and changes taking place which need to be addressed, both internally and externally.  If there was failure, success can come as long as learning takes place.  Often times, a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis or similar tool can be helpful, but only if the output is applied in the actual formulation of the strategy and not used standalone.

Element #2:  The Power of a Simple Message

A clear vision can provide succinct clarity to where an organisation intends to go, and it does not have to be fancy, example:  ‘Low Cost’.

Element #3:  Marathon Thinking

This may seem obvious, but the person who wants to win a marathon needs to possess a fine balance of long-term strategy and shorter-term tactics to overcome the challenge.  Some people call this walking with one leg and running with the other.  In any case, long-term thinking needs to be an essential ingredient of any solid strategy.

Element #4:  Sense of Reality

A strategy is not worth much if it does not accurately reflect the reality of the situation – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Element #5:  Less is More

This has been said many times, but a strategic plan should focus on the Critical Few.  A plan should outline what the organization should not do just as much as it articulates what it should do.

Element #6:  Balanced Stakeholder Listening

A great strategy reflects the voices of all the key stakeholders of an organisation, in particular the Employees and the Customers, who often get forgotten.  There is a famous quote that says ‘The greatest tool you have is to listen’, yet many strategies are developed in a relative vacuum.

Element #7: Actionable Content

This is the critical link to Process Excellence.  The strategic plan should be detailed enough to either specifically outline actions required to meet the goals, or be able to lead directly to such actions.  The action plans identified will likely be high-level and not necessarily answer the ‘hows’ but certainly describe the ‘whats’ that are needed to move the organization ahead

Element #8: Energetic Deployment

A great strategy does not just remain stuck in a powerpoint slide, but gets effectively and passionately deployed to every level of the organisation.  If there is a function or team that is disengaged from the planning activity, or not involved in its execution, then the strategy is a failure

Element #9: Fanatic Follow-through

Strategies are intended to be used, not mounted on a gilded frame to be admired from time to time

Element #10:  Living & Breathing the Strategy

Solid follow-through is more than governance reviews and scorecard updates.   It needs the leadership to be absolutely committed to and thoroughly passionate about the strategy.  Leaders should be talking the ‘language’ of the strategy on a daily basis.