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Strategic success: how to have the right conversations

Many people believe that success hinges on having the right strategy. Others swear it’s all in the execution. We would say it’s a bit more elemental: it’s all about having the right strategic conversations. It’s what makes the transformational difference.

 

What does that mean in real terms? Let’s explore some examples…

  • A highly successful regional leadership team of a substantial global organisation (£43 bn revenue) was challenged by the Group CEO to add a further 20% of profitable revenue from a regional strategy, on top of already stretching country targets and in a market under increasing pressure. It was quickly established that allocating the targets to each country would not deliver the overall result, and that the country and functional leaders were going to have to work collaboratively to leverage their collective strengths to deliver additional regional value. For a team that did not see much value in a regional approach, there was some degree of scepticism. How did they align these disparate voices and find new sources of shared value?

 

  • A global leadership team of a small agency with all the right ingredients – extraordinary talent, a premium client list and an inspirational leader – had lacklustre performance destroying shareholder value. There was no lack of positive intent and activity, but why could they not make their business strategy happen?

 

  • A new CEO had a mandate to restore a £6 bn global business to financial health, improving ROCE from 9.5% to 15.5% in 3 years. The company had grown by acquisition and therefore had a leadership style and culture of a conglomerate, operating as a portfolio of businesses competing for capital and not leveraging best practice or working as one organisation for long-term benefit. Customers were becoming increasingly sophisticated and demanding, and new competitors were challenging the leadership position in several markets. Leadership team meetings focused on operational updates and justifying financial performance. How did change their focus to the critical strategic issues and work together to realise the vision and the benefits that it promised?

 

In all cases, changing the conversation was both the outcome of building alignment and engagement, and the driver of behaviour and performance.

These leaders used a Strategy Map and Balanced Scorecard to articulate the critical priorities in the strategic narrative and then use it as a strategy execution structure to frame cross-organisational strategic issues. Creating a Strategy Map and Balanced Scorecard is iterative, where the co-creation process is as important as the artefact itself in engaging and aligning everyone. The strategic insight provided is used as the basis to surface critical issues that need to be addressed. However, unless trust and transparency are in place, supported by a constructive leadership environment, the right strategic conversations won’t take place.

Changing the conversation is not as simple as it sounds. It means making changes to the way you manage strategy, from the way you articulate it, communicate and share it, align processes and structures to it, prioritise resources, monitor, review and adapt it, but most fundamentally how you lead and foster collaborative ways of working.

What value could your business derive from having the right strategic conversations?

 

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