- Would you consider developing a strategy an easier task compared to applying it?
I thought long and hard about this. The two have equal ratings. It is like saying an architect is more important than the contractor. In this case, when you are writing the strategy, you must make sure every element and scenario is covered, you must make sure you have analyzed every inch of the organization in terms of how things work, who is in charge at every stage, what has not been working and what has.
Similarly, while applying the strategy, you might have areas to adjust and adapt because the practical part is not usually how it seems. However, this is made easier to do by having a drafted strategy. It acts as a fallback plan and can be tweaked as you see fit.
- What would you consider if you were operationalizing a strategy, you had not developed?
After going through it, I would want to understand what the goal was when the strategy was written. It is important that before attempting to operationalize a strategy, you must be truly clear and cautious about the goal and the purpose for the strategy.
It would also be good to look at what organization areas have been evaluated before working on the strategy and what was considered. Are the available resources still present? Does the research considered while developing the strategy still apply?
Take, for example, a strategy drafted a year ago, implementing departments and roles may have changed but may not exist.
It is also crucial that you consider the environment particularly the industry climate that the organization operates in. For instance, if your client is operating in social impact and there is a trend that came up two weeks ago, it will more than likely affect the strategy.
Lastly, does the strategy have the core and functional parts of a strategy? Does it have the theory of change? An implementation plan? Roles and responsibilities? Activities? Make sure to check those boxes.
- What are three fundamental things to consider if your strategy is to be applicable?
The past impact of this organization
If an organization has existed for some time, as a strategist, you need to familiarize yourself with the organization’s impact. Understanding where the organization has been to appreciate where they want to go helps you get a picture of what you may need to change.
You need to ensure that the goal is your main pivoting point. It will feed into the objectives, the activities and the work plans you will develop because they will all be in service of achieving the overall goal.
This is what operationalizes the strategy. Always make sure to have a clear and detailed implementation plan. This is not a one size fits all. All implementation plans and activities are tailor made based on the nature and goals of the organization.
This is an underrated part of strategizing. A lot of us are aware of what we want to do, where we want to go, however, we do not always put clear thought to who is going to execute the various parts we need to reach our goals. For instance, there are some parts in implementation that might need you to factor in capacity building or team expansion.
- As a strategist, what areas have you observed that we drop the ball every now and then?
Given my experience in implementing, it is important to contract the person who drafted the strategy to assist or oversee operationalization of this strategy.
It is better for the person who drafted the strategy to assist with implementation or operationalization of what they designed.
An architect will draw but it would be better for them to check in as much as possible.
It is important to understand the company and organization structure. You must be aware of who is in charge to know who your key internal stakeholders are. It will save you from a lot of back and forth and time.
Striking a balance between client opinion vs your expertise and professional opinion. Client input is valid, but it should not interrupt the expertise you come with. As a managing this dynamic, do your best to collect their thoughts and experiences and balance them out with your expertise.
- What key advice do you have for teams applying strategies out there?
Understand the end game. You created this strategy for a purpose. Everything you do is meant to support the end game. It is not just top management, every single person in the organization needs to know the destination the strategy is taking them to. It is better and easier to execute a plan when everyone is on board and knows why their role is crucial to the bigger picture.