First, CONGRATULATIONS on your new role! There’s no doubt you get things done. Now it’s time to put your stamp on your new organization. It’s time to state YOUR STRATEGY.
If you operate like most DoD agencies, you’ll want to tie directly to the National Defense Strategy and your area within the DoD. Using Air Force as an example, it may look like this:
NDS -> CSAF -> Your Area of AF
Next, you’ll state your organization’s Mission and Vision, with strategies you’ll look to implement over the next 12 – 24 months. More than likely, you’ll next break down the work of strategy into strategic areas of impact. Some refer to these areas as Lines of Effort (LOE). Within each LOE, you’ll likely state key results you’d like to achieve.
Whew, that seems like a lot of work, right? Things should be exceptionally clear to your team, right? Everyone should be aligned, right? Your team should know exactly what to do next, right?
Yep. Not so much. Wish it were so. Not quite.
If this leaves you perplexed, you’re not alone. After all, the steps I just listed are the default steps for leaders in the DoD when charged with developing their organization’s strategy. Given this de-facto standard, it would seem the output would be exactly what teams need to be successful in executing.
However, this standard is far from what your team needs to succeed and even farther from knowing if your strategies are achieving the desired outcomes and effects.
Since you didn’t get where you are by following what’s always been done, consider the following questions and best practices:
1) Governance Structure. What does your team need next?
This “strategy” process has unfolded similarly for over a decade. By now, you’re beyond the initial excitement of your team understanding your LOE’s. You need to see organized actions against your stated strategies. The key here is ORGANIZED. Many leaders still don’t take advantage of a strategy operating system. As a result, implementing strategy has been like kicking a bed of ants – lots of action all at once but no organized approach. Your team deserves better, and you deserve better.
Consider establishing a governance structure as a first step in organizing how your strategy will get executed. While the term “governance” may sound complex, hang with me. Let’s first agree that you’re extremely busy. Let’s also agree that the traditional method of strategy “briefings” places way too much of a burden on you. If you’re still using bi-weekly PowerPoint briefings, you’re attempting to manage the impossible. Remembering the past two and three meetings multiplied by 5 to 7 directed reports is almost impossible. This method of briefings lacks leverage because the reporting structure is flat with you at the top. When a strategy lacks an operating system, you overlook uniformity. Briefings are a failed attempt to simulate uniformity.
2) Accurate alignment. What’s the proper structure?
Now that we’ve level set, let’s dive into governance. When establishing governance, simplify the concept by thinking through the lens of “Who’s most accountable?” To refer to the example above, you’d assign one individual leader per LOE. In a scenario where you have six LOE’s, you would have six “Executive Owners (EO).” With this first step, you’ve begun the process of governance.
Next, your governance structure will require uniformity to establish accurate alignment to your strategy. For uniformity to become a reality, each EO will need a standard operating system to implement their area of strategy. Standardization begins with a clear understanding of each EO’s LOE primary objectives and the key value drivers they’ll need to achieve to make their area of strategy a success.
- Each LOE will have an EO.
- Each EO will align with you as the leader by establishing a clear objective.
- Each objective should have between 3 to 5 key results needed to be achieved to determine success.
- Each key result will require an initial baseline and a clear success metric to determine if your strategies are working.
To standardize, each EO must develop a Strategic Implementation Roadmap (SIR) that follows a uniform approach (aka system). Utilizing this system, each LOE and EO will establish owners for each strategic objective. Each EO will want to establish governance (“ownership”) by objective and key results depending on team size.
Further, each key result should describe the exact deliverable(s) required to achieve the desired results. These deliverables represent your team’s strategies to achieve the desired outcome. As you measure the success of these strategies against your baseline, you will be able to determine if the strategy you’re implementing is achieving the desired outcomes and effects.
Let’s pause here.
This example likely has exposed an existing gap in past strategic plans. If the description above sounds complex, imagine managing all of this without a system. With hundreds and hundreds of strategic objectives throughout an agency, thousands of key results, and tens of thousands of deliverables, how would you ever know, at an agency level, if your strategies are working? You wouldn’t.
3) Data systems. What does the future of strategy implementation look like?
The next generation of strategy requires more engagement and alignment while embracing a more remote organization. Strategy Operating Systems and Strategy Communication Systems built for remote work assume continued progress outside of mandatory meetings. The future of strategy execution is not reporting on the past but rather intensive problem-solving sessions versus historical reporting with no time left to solve problems. The future of executing strategy is based on solutions built on data-informed decisions.
My recommendation: Don’t start another strategy document without considering the multitude of tentacles required to determine if your strategies are working. What you will find is a more engaged team. Governance will establish clear ownership and team accountability. Teams will better understand the strategic objectives they own. The key value drivers of your strategy will be evident not only to you but to your team responsible for implementation. The data your team will produce and collaborate with will become your biggest asset. The opportunity to leverage AI will become more apparent. Last but certainly not least, you as the leader will have embraced a strategy operating system allowing you to see the battlefield and quickly assess where you’re needed most.
To accelerate change, you must change the way you accelerate. Your leadership strategies are among the most critical priorities you’ve identified. If you’re tired of following the same old template and not being able to know if the strategy you’re implementing is achieving the outcomes and effects you desire, we should chat.
Schedule a call here to learn about the benefits of a strategy operating system.