Creating winning strategies is the second pillar of elite organizational design. You might believe winning strategies is about ingenious ideas. It is not. It is about having sound practical goals and plans that get executed effectively. A few years back I read a survey that showed only 14% of senior executives believed they had delivered on their ingenious strategies. Senior executives need to learn that the secret to winning strategies is in the execution.
At one point in my career I was assigned to lead a midsized global company which had stagnated; no growth for over 7 years. I immediately “walked around” the business dreaming of possible strategy changes which might kick-start growth. The employee base, in fact, had several good ideas. After writing down some ideas of what the company might become in 5 years, I chose 6-8 strategies that would need to be done in the first year to get started.
At that point, I asked my staff and others to share their thoughts on the viability and quality of the strategies. This was not a single conversation but rather a back-and-forth discussion over a few months. After becoming confident in the new direction and the first-year strategies needed to move forward, I gathered the company leadership together for a three-day meeting. We reviewed and validated our strategies. Then I divided the room into smaller table groups and assigned each table one of the 6-8 first-year strategies. They built a list of tactics that must get done if the strategy is to be executed. All strategies had a tactic list by the end of day 3 and everyone at the meeting had reviewed and inputted on the full body of work.
Can you guess the result? Our business grew 11% in the first year and continued to grow at double-digit rates for many years thereafter. Was it ingenious strategies? Be assured that it was not. Rather it was everyone being committed to the strategies and knowing how their role would contribute to achieving them.
You need winning strategies to be an elite organization but you should define winning in terms of execution rather than ingenious strategies.