When you’re refocusing strategy and need to bring the team with you, objective prioritisation is critical for taking good decisions quickly.
Although growth is usually on the to-do list, at certain stages in your company’s lifecycle, you need a more root-and-branch strategic review.
Often it’s just time to do things differently. Maybe growth has slowed or plateaued, or you just sense that you should be doing better.
But when a major change necessitates a new focus for your aims, strategy and plans, the stakes get particularly high – especially if the clock is ticking.
So when time is tight and getting it wrong isn’t an option, it’s essential to align your senior team around a comprehensive set of strategic priorities.
When change happens
From a transformational event to a new CEO joining or a new capability being launched, an urgent need to refocus has a range of causes.
A classic example of major change is a merger or acquisition. Whether you’ve bought or been sold, you’ll have a wealth of post-M&A challenges on your plate, coupled with an urgent need to demonstrate the value of the deal.
And given the disruption we’re all experiencing, refreshing – or redefining – your operating model is another moment of truth when prioritising becomes mission-critical.
Finding a shared place to start
All these scenarios are rife with complexity and risk. And as well as wrestling with the challenges you can see, not to mention the ‘unknown unknowns’ (thanks, Donald Rumsfeld), there’s usually internal politics too.
So even if you’re the sole shareholder, bringing your senior team along on the journey is always a good idea.
UCLA Professor Richard Rumelt’s three-part definition of strategy is a great place to start:
- Diagnosis: a clearly defined point of view on where your specific opportunity lies
- Guiding policy: outlines your approach to dealing with the obstacles called out in the diagnosis
- Coherent actions: feasible co-ordinated policies, resource commitments and actions designed to carry out your guiding policy.
This creates a common starting point for your prioritisation conversation – not to mention a sobering antidote to the all-too-common confusion between strategy and goals (“our strategy is to double in size”, anyone?).
Prioritisation in complex circumstances
Rumelt’s definition challenges you to discuss where you are, where you’re heading and how to get there. You’ll need to explore trends, uncover opportunities and tease out new ideas.
Unfortunately, this is often where you lose momentum.
Different stakeholders have different priorities. Some have louder voices or more political capital than others. So the process can easily descend into a confrontational ‘frank exchange of views’.
This is where an external facilitator can help you keep the prioritisation debate productive.
If you do decide to get an outside view, ensure their approach works for you. Co:definery is a big fan of the N2D method – a fast-paced decision-making model that combines your knowledge with an objective algorithm.
Depending on your scale, complexity and the risk borne by assumptions, using N2D enables us to align your team around your business objectives and the needs of customers, taking robust decisions in as little as a day.
Your window of opportunity
Whether you’re the new CEO, you’ve been through an M&A or have undertaken some major operational improvements, change often comes with a short window of opportunity.
So while there’s usually much to gain, getting the big calls wrong can create some serious downsides, to put it mildly.
Refocusing around customer needs and giving your senior stakeholders a meaningful voice is essential. So using a fast, practical and agnostic framework to take you all on the journey together helps de-risk the process.
And once you’ve collectively agreed a clear strategy with prioritised actions, you have the best chance of hitting the ground running.
Note: the N2D Method and NeedRank algorithm, are copyright and registered trade marks (© and ®) of Subsector Ltd. All rights reserved.