Many companies and organizations are in the process of defining or refining their strategies to move into 2016 and beyond. Strategies are invented (and reinvented) across many different pillars or focus areas for the business needs at the time. Many strategies tend to stall or even die off because of the lack of foresight to activate and implement the thinking and ideas that are behind them.
The key to a successful strategy activation and implementation is to be in the same mindset that created it, that is, to be open minded to making changes to achieve the Ideal Future states that you have created for the next phases of your business. We must resist the temptation to say that something “just wont work” here, or that will be “impossible to do because of who we are.” This are just triggers for you to go back into problem solving mode and identify the gaps to activation and work collaboratively across the organization to close the gaps so that you can get the idea to 80% acceptable (or some defined acceptance).
The notion of Innovate versus Renovate came up in a side discussion during a client session and I wanted to explore that more in order to help create focus on activating your strategy via any defined pillars:
Renovate (verb): to make changes and repairs so that it’s back in good condition.
When things seem stonewalled or blocked we have a tendency to retreat our thinking back into the current state. Yes that will seem like progress and, for a moment in time, will seem like something new and shiny for the business. When we are in renovation mode, we are in the process of making superficial and surface repairs and our Ideal Future state will never get realized.
Innovate (verb): to do something in a new way and to have new ideas about how something can be done.
When we are innovating, it is a process that will take time. When we want to make changes to the people, processes and products we are connected to and with, we need to approach it as a journey of doing (making the change), learning (from the change) and adjusting to the change (taking the learning and modifying). Just because something stalled or even failed to be implemented, we need to overemphasize learning from the failure so that we can modify it so that it does work because a lot of thought and analysis went into creating the strategy. Subsequently, when we are successful in making the newness stick we need to overemphasize on what worked in that process and replicate it across other activation initiatives. This is the process by which, over time, you can impact the business.
Innovation (noun): a new idea, device, or method and the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices or methods
The ideas, the strategy, the pieces of the puzzle that you have created to activate your strategy does not become an innovation until it is implemented fully. This requires you to innovate in two ways:
- Create new ways to execute on your ideas so that they put the least amount of strain on the organization
- Create new ways to socialize your ideas so that they contain the thoughts and ideas of those who they will impact
The final push for activation is to incorporate the organization in a grassroots process. Once you have laid out your horizons and the activities that are required for success, spend time engaging with the other teams as well as other stakeholders to ensure that road blocks are met first and ideas to circumnavigate the roadblocks are gathered collaboratively and openly.
Moving from Ideas to Implementation: A 3 stage process for success
During this stage engage in multiple rounds of idea development, engaging with external and internal customers (consumer, buyers, end-users), internal and external stakeholders (those impacted), as well as content experts as identified by your core strategy team.
- Internal development: Share the ideas in detail with the external and internal consumers and stakeholders, probing for detailed understanding and asking for balanced feedback. The purpose is to identify what is attractive to the internal consumers and what the gaps success. At a minimum, have three internal/external consumer sessions to review the concepts. Each session will build on the other. Following each development session, spend time to review the feedback; problem solve and invent the next iteration of the strategy ideas.
- Stakeholder Development: Share the concepts in detail with both internal and external stakeholders to gather their feedback and identify potential issues to activation and build upon the benefits that have already been identified. Schedule at least one Stakeholder Development sessions. Following these sessions, spend time reviewing feedback and problem solving as needed.
- Open Development: Spend time with as much of the organization as possible to tackle any unforeseen gaps, obstacles or continued feedback to strengthen the strategic ideas. Introduce the evolved ideas to key departmental leads for final builds as well as members of the organization who will have to begin to market, message, and sell the ideas.
A key component to a successful implementation is to have a clear message. This messaging is crucial to providing the organization a clear and concise understanding of the strategy, its features, its benefits and the reason to believe in the strategy. You can build this messaging off of existing work and communications. To get to implementation, you need to first tackle the following:
- Strategy Equity: Develop idea/concept prototypes based on the feedback. A Product Equity pyramid approach that will define the Why, What and How of the strategic solution as well as your Unique Selling Proposition (of the strategy) and Reasons to Believe (RTBs).
- Positioning and Messaging: Using the Product Equity output, we will create a positioning statement and idea messaging. This messaging will include addressing all the issues that are important to the organization.
- Final Tactics: Additionally, identify what else needs to occur for successful launch of the strategy. This may include inventing new processes internally to support the strategic ideas.
Incubating new ideas is a challenge for any organization, especially when it comes to strategy. The same impulse that can kill new thinking can easily kill concepts and ideas at the first sign of weakness. The main job is to maintain the level of speculative thinking and lack of prejudice that led to the original creation of the strategy concepts. Leverage each team member’s natural problem solving abilities to look at each concept through a lens of continual growth and refinement when encountering both the unexpected, as well as the expected challenges that always accompany the birth of something that is truly new.
Continually iterate your ideas based on several levels of feedback, refinement and invention. There is no golden number of feedback sessions to follow; just that one is not enough. Our goal is continually to Build the strongest solution we can (at the time); Measure its effectiveness through various forms of feedback; and, Learn enough to make changes to the strategic ideas so that you can get to activation as fast as possible.