Strategy

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Creating A Vision

How Do You Create a Corporate Vision?

Defining an organisational vision can feel like a daunting and sometimes meaningless task.  But it is really only from our individual and combined vision, that we can define our business goals and ensure we are all working toward the same dream.

Let’s explore the simplest way we have found to quickly establish the building blocks of a corporate vision.  For a different way, you might like to read about strategy mapping.

It might sound a little ‘out there’ but a dream or vision board is a visual representation of your biggest hopes and goals – what you want to achieve for yourself and others.  Completing this as individuals allows you to explore your drivers and what you really want.  Which is a powerful exercise by itself.

But by sharing these aspirations as a team and creating a combined vision for your business takes you’re taken into a new dream world.  This is the best basis for creating your strategy – as you will be starting with success in mind, knowing you are working towards the same dream.

An important point here is trust, be comfortable sharing elements from your dream board with others and don’t be limited by what you think other’s might want to see on your dream board.

The more honesty you can bring to this initial session, the more honest the values and vision will be of the resulting discussion, because the dream board is quite literally your future picture of success and represents everything important to you that you are aiming for.

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How to create your dream board?

Getting ready

You’re looking for a selection of words, pictures and ideas that will bring your vision to life, so collect a selection of different magazines, publications and newspapers that you don’t mind cutting up.  Or you could try searching for google/bing images relating to key words that are important to you.  Get a large sheet of card or thick paper, a pair of scissors and some glue, blue-tack or tape.

Getting set

Sit back, relax, and start by warming up your visionary brain. Choose some or all of the ‘primers’ below to get into the right frame of mind for visioning!

  • Get idealistic – remove any barriers from your thinking and just dream big
  • Listen to your favourite music.
  • Remember a time when life felt great! Bring back the memory of that specific moment in time and replay it as if you are watching a film of it. Allow yourself to connect with the feeling of it.
  • Think about all the things that you are grateful for, no matter how big or small.
  • Imagine you have somehow gone forward in time and that you are completely happy and successful and have achieved your picture of future success. With your eyes closed, let your imagination roam freely to explore an ideal day in the future – from when you get up in the morning to going to bed at night What are you doing, not doing? What’s it like? What difference are you making? What makes life meaningful? What brings you happiness?

Getting going

Now, start flicking through your magazines and intuitively pick out the pictures and headlines that stand out to you – the things that to you represent your picture of success in some way. Don’t spend any time analyzing it, just allow your ‘gut’ instinct to choose for you! If you do find yourself slipping into thoughts of today or go into problem solving mode, then pause and try one of the primers again before returning to it. Put some inspiring or upbeat music on in the background.

Assemble your pictures and headlines on your large piece of card, sticking them onto it when you sense everything is there as you want it.

Stick it somewhere prominent so you see it regularly. Save it as your screen saver. Put a photo of it by your bed or office desk.

Combining Visions

Once you have your individual visions, begin combining them.  Obviously we can help with this.  Give yourselves plenty of space and time to have a look at each other’s vision, to talk through your vision and to ask questions about anything that seems surprising or doesn’t immediately make sense.

This is the best opportunity to develop a deep sense of shared meaning between the group.  The reason one individual may have an image of say a growing tree on their board, may be vastly different to someone else.

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Once you have shared and understood one another’s board, begin looking for common threads, ideas and images that run through all the boards.  Take these commonalities and begin crafting a separate corporate vision board.  Use as many images as you can that show an overlap in ideas and ambitions.

At this point you have the very basics of your corporate vision and it probably looks like a jumbled mess.  But it could get messier, as this is a great time to ask employee’s to contribute their ideas to the vision board.  You’ve created the initial vision and values “framework” at leadership level, and now you asking for employee’s to engage with that with their own ideas.

The upside to this is that your employee’s will naturally feel more involved with any brand, vision or values that result from this work.

Now you’ll need to begin the arduous process of distilling these images and ideas in to simple, preferably single word concepts.  And our advice here is to limit yourself to no more than 6 concepts… we have 5

If you choose, these distilled concepts can become you vision, values or both.  We took our 5 concepts and made them our values, and from this we developed our vision.

Our values describe the way we want to interact with the world around us, our vision is the dot on the horizon we are working towards.

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Goldilocks & Leadership Development

goldilocks1-400x265How do you design a leadership development programme right for you?

Many of our clients are wanting to have a development programme for managers and leaders that is tailored to them – or completely bespoke for each person.  The days of off-the-shelf learning approaches seem to be numbered as recognition grows that traditional classroom learning is simply not effective.

So what can businesses do to make their development programmes for managers and leaders – more appropriately tailored or bespoke?

Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned over the years about how this approach can work best – whether you work with an external provider or not.

Make the vision for development crystal clear.

Let’s start with the intent.  Why on earth are you doing this?  If you want to engage and demonstrate to your organisation the value-add of developing managers and leaders, you’ll need to answer the questions below.

What’s the purpose?   What do you want people to learn through this development?  What might people be doing differently as a result of this?  How does that add value to the business?  How could you measure that behavioural change to monitor the effectiveness of the programme?

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What’s the Development Path?  Where might learners want to take their careers and how does this development support that?  What features might your approach need in order to best support personal, career and business-critical development?  Do you need to add in mentoring from the Exec, buddy systems, external experiences and support?  How does your approach enable people to grow their self-awareness, a critical door-opener to all other development?

We’ll admit that list of questions can be tough to answer, and working through those questions with your stakeholders can often take months.  But in our experience, considering and responding to each of those questions will mean you’ll be able to create a solid and compelling business case for developing your people; and a better programme as result.

So now to the doing.  What activities or interventions could you use?

Below is a little list of things you can use on top of facilitated skills workshops, but we’d always recommend starting with the learning objectives.  What do people need to learn?  Is it knowledge, skill – or about embedding behavioural habits?  Plan interventions or learning activities that best suit that sort of learning.

  • Engage the senior team. When we talk about the 70: 20: 10 model, the difficulty is always working out what to do with the 70%.  The fact is that the 70% of our learning comes from the underlying culture and unconscious observation of how things are done around here.  That can be heavily driven by our managers – so getting them on board with the learning objectives and role modelling the right sort of behaviours is critical.  It doesn’t of course always work that way – but it’s a great starting point to at least get leaders on board.
  • Problem-solving workshops. Reflecting the best practice accelerated learning principles of having learners create their own learning, this approach starts with them.  What is the problem they’re facing linked to your development outcomes?  A common example is both the business and the delegates want to get better at having difficult conversations.  So instead of jumping into traditional classroom training showing people how they should have difficult conversations, ask people to look at it like a problem to solve.  The fact is that in this example, and many others, we all know what we should do, but actually doing it is a different story.  Powerful facilitation of “why is it we don’t do what we know we should, and how might we address that?” can be far more beneficial than yet another training course.  You can read more about this in the article High Performance Conversations.
  • Webinars and self-directed learning. If some of the learning you want to deliver is knowledge-building, then you may as well make use of all the resources available in your documents and systems – and the good old internet.  Giving people knowledge in a workshop can be energy-draining and unhelpful, so use online learning, webinars and workbooks to encourage learners to work at their own pace, reflect and build their knowledge.  The idea with self-directed learning is to encourage the same kind of behaviour as you see when someone is curious about a topic.  We start with a google search and find ourselves going in all sorts of directions from there, clicking on more links and expanding our understanding of something.  You can encourage this by suggesting particular Google searches, giving suggested web links and TED talks and recommending people explore from there.
  • 1:1 coaching and Action Learning Sets. When it comes to embedding behavioural habits, the best option is always to have a manager who supports and challenges us to try out new things, reflect on learning from experience and keep trying things out.  This of course is very rare – and whilst engaging your leaders at the start is wise, it’s always useful if you can give a helping hand to the embedding of habits.  Coaching and action learning give you the chance to challenge people on how they have applied their learning, what they’ve tried and what they could do differently next time.

Own it!

The real jazz hands moment in our work is when individuals take personal accountability for their learning.  This is singularly the most important thing you can encourage when developing people.  If you get this right, and get it in early, learners will be better engaged, more responsive and eager to improve their capabilities.  Starting any learning with it all being focused on people coming up with their own solutions is a great message – and enables you to build from there, the theme of personal accountability.

You could argue that there is nothing in here that stands out as particularly bespoke or different from an off-the-shelf programme – but the key difference is, it all starts with what your business needs to achieve and what your learners offer as solutions.  That’s what makes it work.

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Strategy Mapping

connected 400x265Capturing your primary strategic goals using Strategy Mapping.

Here we discuss one possible method for capturing your strategic goals, enabling you to translate your key guiding principles into a coherent set of business practices that can be communicated and rolled out to the wider business.  And as always, communication is key.

Communicating your driving principles to your organisation in a clear and coherent way is critical to seeing a wider engagement and use of those principles across your organisation.  The first step in this process is for the leadership team to have clarity itself on what those key principles are.

Strategy maps provide such a tool.  A strategy map is an evolution of the balanced scorecard, it enables you to visually plot your key principles across a number of business objectives.  These objectives can range from revenue growth to market positioning and are specific to your company’s desired goals.

Crucially, the strategy map will highlight the relationships between your key principles, your overall business objectives and the business function that will be required to deliver those objectives.

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By giving those business functions, or rather employees sight of these relationships, and how their work contributes and is aligned to those business objectives, you’re enabling them to work in a coordinated, collaborative and empowered way.

For a wonderfully left field but powerful demonstration of giving your organisation this vision check out Tom Wujec’s Ted Talk.

Strategy Maps

The Strategy Map encapsulates a business’ vision, mission, promise to its users, its core values, and its strategic objectives.  It states what the business strives to be and do for the business’ clients.

The premise behind a successful strategy map is that businesses should measure performance in several ways.  Specifically, they must consider success from four different perspectives:

  • Finance
  • Customer
  • Internal Business Processes
  • Learning and Growth

The strategy map incorporates and links these four perspectives into a visual framework. At the highest level, the map presents the organization’s mission, values, and vision—why it exists, what success looks like, and what its future looks like.

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Then it presents the strategy by defining objectives and performance measures for each of the four perspectives. The map presents the four perspectives as separate levels, the top level of the map shows the objectives and performance measures from the financial perspective, and then one level below it shows the objectives and performance measures from the customer perspective and so on.

The Benefits of Strategy Mapping

Strategy maps highlight the relationships and links by which targeted improvements can create desired outcomes.  For example, how an improved IT capability and an improved knowledge of that capability amongst employees can lead to a higher retention of customers and levels of customer satisfaction,

In summary, mapping your key principles to your overall business vision will have these key benefits:

  • It clearly explains to employees what matters most in your business
  • Each employee will understand the behaviours and success measures required of their role
  • Forms the foundation for developing success measure strategically and operationally
  • Aligns the organisation from top to bottom with the vision and principles driving that strategy
  • Provides you with a roadmap to success

This last point is particularly pertinent – strategy maps show how an organisation will convert its initiatives and resources including intangibles such as business culture and employee knowledge, into tangible outcomes.  The organisation clarifies what is most important—what will drive it toward achieving its vision.

All decisions can be viewed through the lens of strategy, and the map makes the decision-making process easier.

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25 Strategy Tools

25-strategy-tools-totemThe Idea: Business strategy is not complicated.

We love this book, but it doesn’t sugar coat it’s feelings about consultancies!

Management consultants make it sound complicated to justify their fees, but in fact the process of exploring what to focus your attention on, how to manage risk and grow your company sustainably – all comes down to a series of relatively simple steps in thinking and analysis. Use the tools in this book to help you plan your strategy.

On occasion you will simply have some good questions to reflect on, but often you will also need some analysis of your market data, sales, profitability and carefully considering how you break all of that down into suitable chunks.

The Action

If you have a fear or dread of the term business strategy, your action is to face that fear. If you just read “market data” and “profitability” and could feel the blood draining from your face, then be aware that it is probably your fear of these words that is stopping you from being successful.

What if you believed that profitability was simply a concept you could learn, understand and use to make decisions? What if you translated terms like ‘market analysis’ into things that are more meaningful for you, like ‘looking at who buys our stuff and finding out more about them.’

If you don’t fear these words, but you’re not sure what you should be doing, then pick up a copy of this book to help you go through, step-by-step, analysing your business and choosing how to run it more effectively.

You can pick up a copy by following the below image.

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Stand Out

standout1Why doesn’t it work when we copy what another great leader does? 

In his new book Standout, Marcus Buckingham introduces how we can more effectively innovate and spread great ideas that land and work.

When we see a part of our business performing well or one manager doing a great job, we tend to say, what can we learn from that?  How can we repeat it?  The problem is, we’re not taking into account that the idea may be specific to that individual’s strengths.

A better way of spreading great ideas, is to match the ideas to individual strengths.  If your strength is in focusing on learning, you might get great mileage out of this idea to encourage and share learning.  If you’re a great energiser, you may get more from this idea to introduce wild and whacky fun into the workplace.

Let’s stop forcing an idea onto people who don’t get it, and focus on finding the right ideas for each individual’s strengths.

Reflections

Marcus’ work to date on strengths has argued these points, but now we have a more specific focus  on growing commercial performance, through the spread of ideas that work – to people who make them work.

What can we do to apply that right now?  What ideas have you heard recently that you thought sounded ok but not quite “you”?  How could you make those ideas more “you”?  Make them your own and watch them work far more effectively.

Takeaways

  • When we focus on the concept of an idea (e.g. to understand individual strengths), we can do more with it than if we just take the tactic (e.g. to make everyone fill out Strengthsfinder!)
  • If we take ideas and make them our own, we are far more likely to succeed – therefore corporate programmes to implement ideas across the board are to some extent doomed to fail
  • As Marcus put it, “true diversity is in strengths”– what mix of strengths do we have in our teams and how are we maximising them?

Marcus Buckingham’s book Standout focuses on using your strengths to gain competitive advantage.

A great summary of the tool, the nine strength roles and how this can help innovation can be found on Kenexa’s website.

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