The How & Why of a Strategy Workout

Q: I’ve rarely seen any strategy decision or plan executed in the manner you’ve stated. Usually strategic decisions are made by executive management (both business and IT) based on political, organizational and corporate culture factors and not on detailed analysis and supporting implementation plans.

A: Don’t let your frustration keep you from doing whatever you can to clarify the mission, objectives, strategies and tactics of your organization. Design your strategy-making process to fit the cultural, political and organizational context of your company, and then have the flexibility and good humor to roll with punches.

Q: How do CIOs recognize and define corporate strategy goals?

A: Corporate goals should define what will be done, who will do it, and where, when and how it will be done, and then they should be checked for completion (the Center for Quality of Management calls this the 4W1H1C format). If your company is one of many that have informal strategy- and goal-setting processes, you can uncover your company’s goals by asking senior managers what they want to accomplish during the current year and how they would measure success.

Q: My findings show that setting strategy is a lot easier than achieving it. I have investigated a number of tools and methodologies that aim to automate and drive down strategic intent into operational objectives?Balanced Scorecard, Simplified Strategic Planning, Universal Strategic Planning and so on.

A: You make two very good points. It is much easier to set strategy than achieve it?especially if you write your strategy from your office chair rather than doing the heavy lifting required to build consensus and establish an iterative strategy-making process. Regarding tools to operationalize the strategy, I think the tool selection is less important than leveraging whatever performance management approach is already in place.

Q: Does the strategy-making process you recommend apply to all kinds of strategy or only to overall IT strategic planning? I am developing a company strategy for information exploitation using Business Objects tools. This is part of our larger corporate IT strategy. Are there variations to the techniques you describe to accommodate this more targeted area?

A: You can use Clayton Christensen’s strategic planning process for any kind of strategy, provided that you have the right people involved. Since using Business Objects software is a how type of strategy, you need to back up and cover the why and what questions. You need to understand the implications of the Business Objects strategy on applications and data requirements before you can identify the correct positioning of the tools.

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