One of the main themes I encounter with the businesses I work with is tension caused by differing priorities amongst leadership. Getting everyone on the same page is an important part of the process in order to move the business forward in a positive and united way. What is not helpful in these dynamics, is to get everyone to state what they think the strategy of the business should be moving forward, up front. If this happens, people tend to be compelled to stick by their position and spend time defending their position and opposing others. It creates a positively closed mindset.
Instead, I like to start the session by information gathering exercises, which is a good foundation (because it is fact gathering, people cannot disagree too much with one another, so it creates a dynamic where everyone is chipping in and providing helpful information and people are in agreement with one another). I like to do this upfront – not only is it helpful, but it generates a collaborative energy and instils a curious and open mindset, essential for creating a sense of shared purpose, refocusing and realigning shared goals and values and forging an agreed way forward.
During this discussion, we tend to focus on gathering facts around the business profitability and financial forecasts, product development, staff and resourcing, the company structure, what technology is being used, some of the threats and opportunities available.
Time for the crystal ball gazing
After this information gathering, which is as much of a refresher on where the business is at as it is in building a foundation to launch into a strategy talk, we are in an informed and insightful position to look at the situation through a number of future ‘frames’.
Doing so helps the leadership team to identify a range of possibilities – both positive and negative; based on the threats and opportunities in the world outside the business, and based on the strengths and weaknesses of the business itself.
- What are the threats and opportunities in the market, industry, world around us?
Exploring emerging dynamics and trends outside of the business unit is an important step in figuring out what might affect the business and likewise what can be leveraged to our advantage. We live in a fast-paced world, being so connected things can change overnight. Consumer sentiment for example to specific products and industries can change incredibly quickly and businesses need to have their finger on the pulse and be one step ahead in order to adapt and stay agile and relevant in a fickle world. Businesses need to identify the risks, traps, and bottlenecks that might be in the way of success.
- What is the business’ direction for the future?
What are the building blocks for the business over the next few years and how can the business evolve, and respond to the identified potential threats and opportunities in the market and world?
- What are current internal strengths of the business?
This is a great opportunity to look at the identifying ‘bright spots’, which are things that we have done well before, or things that others have done well which can be replicated. In fact, focussing on the bright spots is a great technique to move away from unhelpful discussions in strategy planning sessions where the focus tends to be on complex problems and what went wrong. Rather than focussing on all the obstacles in the way, change the conversation to look towards the highest performer or successful competitors to see they might be doing differently and try to articulate and emulate their technique or behaviour. Adapting this approach of identifying and copying ‘bright spots’, makes the process much positive and constructive than dwelling on the negative.
- What are the internal challenges to the business?
These are the weaknesses generated from within the business rather than outside threats. Like identifying the ‘bright spots’ – this frame requires discussion around identifying ‘hot spots’ or bottlenecks, things that stop progress and agility. What are the cultural beliefs and behaviours stifling the business, how is the structure of the company holding it back from being agile and quick to respond? Is there enough decision making at all levels in the business, is there enough creativity and idea generation, is feedback taken on board, does the business handle change well?
- What needs to change so the business can thrive and reach desired outcomes?
What skill sets do we need, what people do we need, what sort of change in structure do we need, what resources and technology are required, how much do we need to invest, can we change our capabilities to reach desired goals and outcomes?
- What are the simple rules or guiding principles ?
What are the rules or principles that will align us to our direction, challenge us to connect, think, work and organise differently? What will push us to be the best version of ourselves, make us raise the bar, and interrupt our cultural habits to help us make good decisions?
Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.