Within any organization, there is always a lot of noise. The noise is generated by the daily wins, losses, crises, frustrations, delays, complexity and a vast array of individual decisions. Critics of strategic planning argue that planning itself often adds to the noise and fails to provide clarity and focus.
We at Hewat Strategic Edge think there are some antidotes to this situation, and it starts with the planning process. In our practice, we facilitate the development of clients’ Strategic Frameworks as the central product of Strategic Planning.
There are five elements of a Strategic Framework:
- Vision Statement,
- Pillars of Success,
- Strategic Objectives,
- Measures and
- Key Initiatives.
It’s the Pillars of Success that really aid in creating focus. We must decide what is most important in our business. It is essential that we determine the values and competencies that will provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Michael Porter in his seminal work Competitive Advantage, notes that it is the functions or processes that represent the elemental building blocks of competitive advantage.
As we build a Strategic Framework, we need to identify the specific attributes that will deliver a value proposition faster, better, more cheaply, more reliably, more comprehensively, more completely, or more easily than our competitors. The Pillars of Success should be three to five in number. Often the Pillars of Success include attributes of customer service, product quality and employee performance, but there can be many other candidates. It might be that a relentless focus on a unique sales approach, or the benefits of technical innovation, or the discipline of cost containment, are essential for competitive advantage and success within in a particular business.
The Pillars of Success will be the connectors between the Vision Statement (the promise) and the Strategic Objectives (the definition of the achievement of the promise). Therefore, it is critical that we identify the right attributes, which are reflected in the Pillars of Success.
The identification of the Pillars of Success forces decisions about what is most important, what are nice to do’s and what’s extraneous. It helps answer the existential questions which can remove anxiety and concerns about the future of our organization. Pillars of Success answer the question about what it will take to deliver a value proposition on a sustainable and profitable basis.
According to Steve Jobs, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that are there. You have to pick carefully”.
The Pillars of Success essentially strip away a focus on things that are nice to do and get everybody in the organization focused with ferocious clarity on what we absolutely must do.