Here is a common scenario:
You spend months participating in annual planning. If you are part of the process that collects the list of projects, you are spending ridiculous hours collecting and consolidating. Then, you pass the list of projects to those who “align” those projects to strategy? The problem is that this alignment activity is just a way to justify a random list of projects, outside of your strategic project portfolio. Projects that won’t deliver anything for another 18+ months.
Meanwhile, your leadership team has a presentation (somewhere) listing the key strategic objectives intending to grow the business while creating business capabilities that impact the bottom line. Even if these strategic initiatives make the list, they have a 50% success rate*.Even worse, there is pressure to deliver faster.
Look around your organization. Who is responsible for delivering strategy? The presentation I mentioned earlier does not equal the list of projects in numerous spreadsheets and disparate systems. This process is stifling innovation and costing the organization thousands of man-hours and likely resulting in failing … or what I refer to as failing-slow.
The truth is, strategy is filled with unknowns, which is partly why many organizations aren’t good at strategic planning—they simply don’t know how to work with something that isn’t concrete.
Don’t just be part of the status quo
You must start with strategy. Strategy is how an organization represents themselves, differentiates themselves from the competition, and provides value to their customers. In a nutshell, it’s the heart of an organization, made up of goals, aspirations, and unknowns.
You must connect strategy to what the organization is doing, while providing a plan to deliver faster. Guide your organization to create an actionable plan that embraces the uncertainty of strategy and, in turn, creating business agility.
It is up to leadership to translate strategy into strategic plans, with strategic objectives, and metrics to represent the desired result. Take this opportunity to be the one to get that high-level strategy out of the presentation and set the direction.
What’s the difference between strategy and strategic planning?
While strategy is what your organization wants to be or wants to achieve, strategic planning is the way in which they can get there. It is an actionable, comprehensive plan that details strategy for every department and the organization. It enables your organization to respond effectively to changes, either internally or in the marketplace, and adjust as needed—something that isn’t possible with only strategy held within countless spreadsheets and systems.
For example, currently, most organizations have a top strategy to leverage digital to create a customer experience that connects them to their customer to create loyalty. Well, that is not very actionable. Define achievable metrics such as: What is the number of customers you want to interact with digitally? How often? What results do you want to obtain from interacting with them? Number of transactions? Communications?
Create strategic plans that embrace uncertainty and allow for more incremental delivery.
Adding to the example above, you should create the metrics around customer interactions from a product and service perspective and fund from an annual perspective even if you think it will take more than one year to achieve desired metrics.
But, you can’t wait 18+ months to obtain those metrics! You will fail to deliver the strategy and worse, lose interactions to competitors! Break those metrics down so that you can achieve them iteratively and then create releases for a multi-rollout approach.
The benefits of taking an iterative approach are:
• Ability to create an initial time-boxed incremental project that is focused on the uncertainty and allows for innovation
• Learn from failures and reset faster avoiding further investment in the wrong approach
• Pushes decisions to teams with a focus on the right metric, not requirements that may not result in the desired metrics
• Allows for feedback loops from your customers
• Creates agility allowing for corrections or shifts as needed
• Successful delivery of strategy
Sound interesting? I bet your leadership would think so.
Wondering where to go from here?
Now that we’ve covered why you should manage the portfolio from a strategic perspective through a product and services lens rather than manage a list of projects, stay tuned for part two of this series, where I will cover who in your organization must be part of the strategic planning process. In the meantime, learn more about strategic planning by reading the whitepaper, “The Four Key Elements of a Strategic Plan,” and registering for a free demo of Planview’s strategic planning solution.
*Gartner, “Get Ready to Maximize Focus and Outcomes for Investments in Digital Business,” authored by Richard Hunter, published December 7th, 2016.