As Balanced Scorecard Users know, strategy is a hypothesis – an educated guess on how to run an organization in the future and remain competitive - then, monitoring the hypothesis is where the strategy can be tested and adapted to ensure ongoing competitive advantage. So, how does an organization unlock the real value of the strategy review meeting?
The following best practice guidelines will enhance the use of the strategy review meeting in your organization.
Guideline #1: Clearly Establish Ownership of the Strategy Review Meeting
The chief executive is the owner of the strategy review meeting. Strategy and strategy execution are responsibilities that are clearly within the domain of the chief executive. Although others may participate and contribute, the ownership rests with the chief executive.
The chief executive can delegate accountability of certain tasks to be performed during the meeting but the responsibility for the results of the meeting is his/hers.
Guideline #2: Ensure the Executive Team are Active Participants in the Strategy Review Meeting
The executive team is generally defined as the direct reports to the chief executive. This team is the primary resource for reporting strategic progress, analyzing results and providing specific recommendations for adaption by the executive team and the chief executive.
Therefore, any modification to the strategy must be reviewed by the executive team and decided ultimately by the Chief Executive.
Guideline #3: Make the Strategy Review Meeting a Forward Looking - Problem Solving Meeting
The strategy review meeting is the place where strategy is discussed and managed. The chief executive convenes the meeting of executives to review strategic performance and develop action plans. Designated executive team members present their findings and make recommendations to the chief executive and the executive team.
One cautionary note: The strategy review meeting must be separated from the ongoing operational review meeting. Failure to do so results in an inordinate amount of time spent on operational issues at the detriment of the strategic discussion. The focus of the meeting needs to change from “what happened” to “why it happened “and “what options do we have” in the future and what should we do next”.
Guideline #4: Frame the Issues for Decision in the Strategy Review Meeting
To gain full value from the strategy review meeting, care must be given to the appropriate preparation for the meeting. This includes the critical work of “framing the issues for decision”. To move beyond the briefing, and in addition to reporting on the performance of strategic objectives and measures, and strategic initiatives, care needs to be given to framing the “why and what next”.
This work requires gathering data (internal and external) for analysis, recommending appropriate actions and calling for decisions. There are two components of problem solving: the first is providing sufficient information for decision making and the second is the process for making decisions.
Guideline #5: Investment in People, Process and Technology to support the Strategy Review Meeting.
The team needs to accept the premise that the strategy review meeting is a critical element of the strategy management process…the place where strategy is managed and ongoing value is created. This value added process needs investment in people, process and technology to perform at its potential.
Although the meeting is owned and chaired by the chief executive, and the active participants are the executive team members, the process needs managing and that role typically rests with a process owner. The name given to this person is varied; the strategy officer; the strategy management officer; the strategy coordinator, etc. Their role is to ensure that the strategy review process described above provides the information and insights to make ongoing strategic decisions.
First and foremost, hold the strategy review meeting on a scheduled and reoccurring basis. Whether monthly or quarterly, the executive leadership team needs to convene regularly to review and discuss strategic performance and develop action plans to address critical issues that may arise. The strategy management officer, together with his/her team, is responsible for providing the staff work needed to ensure these meetings are focused and valuable. Generally, this is referred to as the governance calendar.
The result of this process preparation is the agenda with supporting information that provides the chief executive and the leadership team with the ability to understand strategic performance, weigh options and plan for necessary adjustments.
ESM software can assist in the monitoring, analytic, and reporting duties required in the strategy management process. The degree to which an organization can automate dashboards and other reporting tools can take the “pain out of the reporting process”. But more importantly, using the appropriate technology may free up the valuable time needed to do the analysis and prepare evidence-based recommendations for leadership consideration.
To summarize Guideline #5 - get the right people, do the right things, use value-added technology.
Guideline #6: Ensure Strategic Learning and Action takes place in the Strategy Review Meeting
Strategic learning is the ability to understand and adapt the strategy to current and future change. This is done though a process of testing the strategy (the hypothesis) by reviewing through use of measures and initiatives whether what you thought was going to happen actually happened. The scorecard does not necessarily tell us what is wrong, but it does pinpoint areas where executive attention may be needed.
However, to know but to do nothing about it will not produce desired results. Part of the process is to have the willingness to take action when it is indicated. In routine meeting management parlance this is the development of an action plan.
Conclusion: Unlocking the Real Value in the Strategy Review Meeting
Let me be clear, there is value in having a strategy that is based in reality. And, there is value in having a disciplined process of strategy implementation – articulation and measurement. Failure on either of these two elements puts the future of the organization at risk.
However, strategy is developed based on what we know today and can expect tomorrow. The only certainty is that “things will change”. Therefore, for the strategy to remain relevant, the organization must have a time and place where the strategy can be discussed, tested and adapted. That is why a well structured strategy review meeting is critical. It is a safe guard against the rapid and inevitability of change.