Alignment (part three)

I’m in the middle of a series of posts focused on corporate strategy that are going to be part theory and part practice, a way to mine the work I’ve been doing over the last couple of years for insights. Hopefully folks out there will find them not only valuable, but good conversation starters for sharing their own thoughts and experiences.

In the last post, I began demonstrating an exercise that can help turn a laundry list of aspirations into a prioritized (and actionable) set of goals. We got as far as determining the Top Two goals that the strategy would support and then using the remaining items on the laundry list to formulate guiding principles.

In this post, I want to take the exercise further to show how to connect your guiding principles to the capabilities and projects needed to deliver them.

But first, to recap, here’s the Top Two and associated guiding principles we arrived at (based on a real-world exercise I did recently with a large insurance client):

In the delivery of communication to our customers, we will be:

    • Focused on the needs of the customer
    • Cost-effective

In order to be focused on the needs of the customer and cost-effective in the delivery of communication to our customers, we will adopt the following guiding principles:

    • Appropriately consistent communications across types, channels, and customer segments
    • The right communication with the right message, the right amount of content, at the right time through the right channel to meet customer needs
    • Efficient use of processes and technology to create, store, manage, deliver, and track customer communications

Principles in action

So far, all of this is very noble–but when it comes time to act on your Top Two goals and associated principles, you’re going to need to understand what capabilities are required to succeed.

To do this, you list out all the conditions that need to obtain in order for your organization to be able to operate according to your guiding principles to meet your Top Two goals. In doing this, you need to think broadly about what could be considered capabilities. Move beyond the capabilities that technology can provide to also consider capabilities delivered by people and process as well.

The following is the list of capabilities my insurance client came up with to support their Top Two goals and guiding principles:

  • Processes with federated ownership but central coordination, ownership and accountability clearly defined throughout the communication lifecycle
  • Customer-facing employees must be able to quickly find and view communications delivered to customers
  • Consistency in brand standards, design guidelines, voice, style, and content guidelines
  • Multi-channel, self-service delivery (print, email, web, text, voice, mobile device)

With this done, they then moved to identify where they had organizational assets in place to deliver these capabilities and where they had gaps. The following table illustrates how you can do this (although the specifics have been changed from my actual client’s information).

Figure 1 – Capabilities Gap Assessment

Closing the gaps

At this point, all that’s left to do is to determine how to close the gaps identified on the capabilities gap assessment. Once you do that, you’ll have the organizational capabilities to support acting fully on your guiding principles and Top Two goals–and your strategic vision will have become (or at least have begun to become) reality.

What’s needed is to identify the projects that, when completed, will close your capabilities gaps and then to lay them against a roadmap for completion.

Although the specifics of this step are too difficult to sanitize from my actual client, I can provide some idea of what a general roadmap might look like.

Figure 2 – Roadmap

You’ll notice that I’ve included a Capability Mapping column that indicates which capabilities each project will impact. This is critical, not only because it allows you to track which capabilities you’re impacting with each project, but also because, when tough decisions need to be made about which projects can’t be done due to budget or resource constraints, you’ll have a data point to help inform that decision.

The final word

Well there you have it: the ten-cent tour of building an actionable strategy. Three short blog posts make it look a lot easier than it is, as any of you who’ve been involved in corporate strategy know. But in broad outline, this is the path I follow with my clients when helping them build their strategic vision.

I’m not sure what I’ll turn to next, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear from folks out there about their own experience with corporate strategy–or even some good old-fashioned heckling of the framework I’ve presented. Jump in, and let’s get the conversation going!

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2 Responses

  1. Joe, you’ve outlined an excellent approach to strategy formulation…

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Jolanta…always appreciate it!

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