Case Study: Developing and Embedding Strategy

Background

Company A is a medium sized, publicly traded scientific research and development company specializing in the advancement of medical technology. This founder-led organization had its formal inception seven years ago and recently got government approval to launch its first product for a targeted market. The product has been enormously successful and is overtaking competitor products as the technology of choice.

The founder and her Executive Leadership Team could not be more excited about their success. At the same time, a substantial amount of additional research is being required to sustain the product and advance its application to a broader market. Additionally, the development of new uses, pipeline products, a developing infrastructure and expanding operations is diverting the Executive Leadership Team’s attention from creating and deploying a clear, unified strategy for the growing business.

Employees are pressured by multiple demands and struggling with the lack of focus and direction from management; Human Resources and hiring managers are in overload to source and fill new and vacated positions.

While Company A is solidly grounded in a set of strong and well accepted values, the employee population, which has doubled in size over the past twelve months, is threatening a dilution of the culture and employee engagement.

It is an exciting, yet stressful and challenging time at Company A!

Timeline

Early Fourth Quarter

It is early in the fourth quarter of the year. The new product has achieved a strong presence in the market and new research for additional product development on several fronts is promising.

The Founder of Company A is brilliant, experienced, entrepreneurial and has successfully established Company A as a rising star of the industry. The Founder is also very comfortable making all of the decisions regarding Company A’s vision, strategy and the direction of the company. And that has worked well, until now. The outside demands on a public company to meet its financial targets coupled with the internal pressures resulting from rapid growth has rendered the Founder and the Executive Leadership Team largely at odds in setting and communicating direction, project priorities and resource allocation. In fact, the Founder’s Executive Leadership Team is not collectively in agreement as how to articulate the current strategy or how to determine if real progress is being made to achieve it.

Competing internal priorities are causing frustration and confusion within the Senior Leadership Team (the Executive Leadership Team’s direct reports) and, ultimately, threatening the ongoing success of Company A. The old story of limited resources and conflicting mandates has the Senior Leadership Team anxious to be involved in a process of determining and communicating a working strategy.

Mid Fourth Quarter

Company A’s Executive Leadership Team continues to be distracted by the business at hand, and still has not taken time to reassess the current year’s direction or start the planning for next year’s strategic objectives. As a result, little involvement is being solicited from the Senior Leadership Team to address employee’s mounting frustration around competing priorities and resources. The lack of clear communication coupled with the void of action plans to focus the current direction and address conflicts, continues to have the company operating in a daily fire-drill mode.

Late Fourth Quarter

The Founder and Executive Leadership Team can no longer ignore the clarion cry for direction from the Senior Leadership Team. The Executive Leadership Team is realizing that this talented and high- performing Senior Leadership Team, and the departments they lead, are increasingly at risk. Is it time for the Founder and her Executive Leadership Team to let go of the reins and involve those who are the knowledge experts and have been tasked with running the day-to-day business – the Senior Leadership Team – in the strategic development and communication process? They have agreed that it is.

With this said, while the Senior Leadership Team is technically proficient, they are still developing skills as strategic thinkers and leaders; a structured development program is going to be required to effectively pull them together as a team and productively engage with the Executive Leadership Team in developing, leading and driving strategy.

Case Analysis: The Prism Partners International Approach

A clearly defined strategy is the foundation of any great organization. Supporting this strategy with prioritized objectives and related action steps provides the stepping-stones to accomplish the organization’s strategy. Further, an engaged workforce, empowered to execute based on the objectives and action steps will not only drive financial results, but will solidify a culture of communication, collaboration and accountability.

Strategy – Engaging Leadership In The Process

As an organization evolves, its strategy will similarly need to evolve and change in order for the company to consistently meet its objectives and goals. Executive management should continually discuss the vision and strategy for their organization. Whether it is during a specific strategy session, or during ongoing team discussions regarding the business, executive management needs to plan and maintain a clear direction for their organization. That requires discussion and input at the appropriate leadership levels to regularly review progress and adjust the strategy based on market conditions, competitors, company performance, etc.

After meeting with the individual members of the Executive Leadership Team, Prism Partners learns how closely Company A’s Founder has traditionally held the strategy setting process. Additionally, Prism Partners learns that over the past many months, the strategy reassessment process has largely been ignored to deal with the pressing demands of their new and developing products.

However, in their discussions with the Executive Leadership Team, Prism Partners was able to collect and consolidate the fragmented views of what currently constitutes Company A’s strategy. Most importantly, the discussions have resulted in a commitment from the Founder and Executive Leadership Team to include their direct reports – the Senior Leadership Team – in an exercise that will engage both teams in the development and deployment of a strategy and the related action steps that can be imbedded throughout the organization.

With both information and commitment in hand, Prism Partners formulates a cohesive, pro forma version of Company A’s high-level strategy for the coming year and agrees it with the Founder and the Executive Leadership Team. The next step is to get the Senior Leadership Team engaged to further develop the pro forma strategy document, as well as make it tangible and actionable at the departmental level. Knowing the Senior Leadership Team’s appetite to be involved in this work, this shouldn’t be a problem!

Leadership Working Sessions

Senior Leadership Team

The Senior Leadership Team’s enthusiasm is high, but their experience in developing strategy is minimal. The Founder, however, is committed to expanding the strategy process and firmly believes that this will be not only be a good opportunity to further refine the strategy with those who are involved in leading the day-to-day work, but it also presents an excellent development opportunity for the Senior Leadership Team to hone specific and important higher level business and leadership skills.

With the initial strategic direction agreed by the Executive Leadership Team, Prism Partners convenes a working session of cross-departmental Senior Leadership Team members to assess the pro forma strategy and further define the strategy in terms of specific actionable objectives considering:

  • Departmental areas of focus (e.g. product development, marketing, operations, technology, talent acquisition)

  • Resources needed to execute on the strategy, (e.g. talent, funding, equipment)

  • Internal and external collaboration requirements

  • Identification of potential internal and external roadblocks and recommendations to resolve them

  • Identification of any dependences or compliance requirements

  • Development of metrics that can be used to monitor and assess the ongoing effectiveness of the strategy

  • Engagement of the broader organization, strengthening the culture and driving results.

The working session outcome could not have been better! With candid discussions, the Senior Leadership Team was able to formulate and agree on recommendations regarding enhancements to the pro forma strategy, as well as develop specific, written action plans to execute on the strategy. The Senior Leadership Team adjourned feeling a more enlightened, cohesive, engaged and empowered team – mission accomplished on one front.

Joint Leadership Team Session

To finalize the strategy for the upcoming year, Prism Partners facilitated a final working session with both the Executive and Senior Leadership Teams to discuss, agree and prioritize the overall strategy and related action plans that had been developed in the prior conversations and working sessions. Once concluded, both teams were unified, committed and invested not only on the direction of the company, but also on what action steps are required to realize their objectives. Also agreed by both teams was the prioritization of the objectives and how they would be cascaded through the organization for execution.

During the session, each action step related to a strategy was assigned an owner (or Senior Leadership Team champion) to be accountable for coordinating and driving the strategy within the organization.

Now the tasks turns to communicating the upcoming year’s strategy and objectives to the entire employee base and make it individual, meaningful and actionable to each of them.

Action Plans

With the strategy and high-level action plans in place, it is now time to put all of the strategic direction and plans into action at the departmental and individual levels.

Departmental

By developing specific objectives and actions at the departmental level, the organization ensures that the team is properly focused and prioritized on the actions that will drive the successful execution of the strategy.

Prism Partners worked with the accountable Senior Leadership Team champion and departmental lead to determine how Company A’s overall strategic objectives break down to specific objectives and actions relevant to the department’s function (e.g. Research: analyze 1-2 new concepts; Development: advance a number of ideas from research to prototype; Human Resources: source talent to fill position, etc.). Each department agreed a specific plan of action and the relevant steps and accountabilities to help achieve, on a timely basis, the strategies that impacted them, contributing to Company A’s overall success.

Individual Objectives

Employees need to both understand and feel that their role is helping Company A accomplish its strategy. If employees see the link and clear alignment of their role to the overall organizational strategy, employee engagement and contribution will increase as they better appreciate how their job is valuable to the organization.

Prism Partners worked with each department head and individual manager to cascade the strategies and objectives to an individual performance level. Each manager developed specific individual performance objectives for his/her employees that were tied to the departmental action plans and, thus, the strategy of the organization.

Communication and Ongoing Execution

Initial and ongoing communication throughout an organization is critical to the success of any
strategy. It ensures that everyone knows why and where you are heading as an organization, monitors progress towards the accomplishment of the strategy and addresses the inevitable issues that will arise during execution.

Prism Partners assisted leadership coordinate the communication of the strategy for the new year. A company-wide communication effort was kicked-off with a series of Town Hall meetings where a timely, consistent and motivational message was delivered to all employees. These meetings were closely followed by the departmental and individual goal setting and review sessions explained above.

In addition, quarterly sessions to review and adjust the strategy along with progress sessions to hold accountability for accomplishment of objectives have been scheduled by the leadership teams and will be facilitated by Prism Partners. Quarterly employee Town Halls and other communication events throughout the year will keep employees in-tune with progress or shifts in strategy direction.

Throughout the process, Prism Partners has been available to the leadership teams and action plan owners/champions to assist in the execution of the action plans in line with Company A’s strategic objectives.

Summary

"Strategic planning will help you fully uncover your available options, set priorities for them, and define the methods to achieve them.” - Robert J. Mckain

When an intentional strategy development process is deployed, ultimately engaging every employee, that organization is well prepared to successfully face the inevitable pressures exerted by competition, shifting market conditions and resource constraints. Resulting strategic objectives are more likely to be relevant, actionable and achievable. Employees engage at a higher performance level when leadership motivates through timely, consistent communication, inviting feedback that sets direction and understanding of the value an employee plays in the achievement of organizational objectives.

A clear, unified strategy and related action plans prioritized and embedded in the organization ultimately enhance the engagement of the broader organization, strengthen the culture and drive meaningful results.

What are you doing to develop your strategic plan for success?

Prism Partners International can facilitate the development of your strategy and deliver resulting action plans, including a comprehensive communication plan, to embed your strategy into your organization and motivate your employees to superior performance and results. Through our practical operational experience and innovative assessments and analytics, we can focus and align management actions and employee performance to achieve improved profitability.

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