The world moves too fast to rely on what you’ve always done

Change is happening with increasing speed, and attention spans seem shorter. In today’s world of immediate gratification with continuous news feeds on social media, people expect an instant response and, therefore, have developed an urge to react before they respond in a thoughtful manner.

This environment requires practical strategy tools that encourage engagement and promote strategic thinking throughout all facets of your organization.

One of the most important parts of the job for any CEO is defining and executing strategy to realize consistent long-term profitability. There are thousands of resources that will help you make strategy reasonably simple or inordinately complex.

We spent a lot of time with consulting companies early in our career because Harry Figgie came from a consulting background and knew how successful this “outside look” at a problem could be. He instilled in us the values of the strategic process, explaining that strategic thinking is everyone’s responsibility, not just the CEO or management team.

He encouraged all of us to take a fresh and unique look at the future and come up with a creative, new and fresh perspective.

However, most of the strategic process that was used was much too complex for smaller less sophisticated companies. Our experience and success led us to an important conclusion.

Keep it simple
Our belief is that decision-making and strategy are the same. We believe that the essence of strategy is products, markets and capabilities.

Although executives spend the majority of their day dealing with products, markets and capabilities, they spend very little time training current or new executives and other employees on strategic-thinking skills. We just assume anyone that has profit and loss responsibility must have good strategic-thinking skills. However, experience tells us that strategic thinking skill training must be refreshed on a regular basis.

Your strategic thinking should start with a good definition of what strategy means to your organization, while recognizing that products, markets and capabilities comprise most of your big decisions.

Strategic thinking, by definition, is the ability to come up with effective plans in line with an organization’s objectives within a particular economic situation. Strategic thinking helps business managers review policy issues, perform long-term planning, set goals and determine priorities, and identify potential risks and opportunities.

A good strategy process should be:
1. Consistent and repeatable.
2. Make sense while communicating your story to all your employees and other stakeholders.
3. Scalable on dimensions of size and geography.
4. Focused on the most relevant data.
5. Able to ask and answer key questions.

You should be able to summarize your strategy plan in just a few pages using graphs and matrix charts to summarize the relevant data and decisions.

Most importantly, everyone in your organization needs to “feel” some connection to your strategy plan and realize they are important collaborators. Make time for strategic thinking in your organization and you will improve your execution and success.

Matthew P. Figgie is chairman and Rick Solon is president and CEO at Clark-Reliance