Welcome back to ESM's blog series, The Balanced Scorecard Refresh – Lessons from 20+ Years in the Field, taken from the article authored by Mario Bognanno, Ryan Englund, and Randy Russell. Today, we examine components of the strategy review meetings that ensure strategy execution.
Popular folk lore suggests that strategic plans, once written, tend to collect dust on the shelf. Best practices for successful strategy execution require the discipline of having periodic review sessions where the strategy—based on the use of the balanced scorecard—is reviewed in a leadership meeting that is interactive, problem-focused, and data driven.
These are the characteristics of a successful strategy-review process:
- The enterprise level strategy review meetings should be held quarterly by the leadership team and should be facilitated by the strategy management officer (SMO). As a prelude to this quarterly review, the cascaded units (and/or departments) should review their scorecards or department-level objectives monthly. This sequencing allows input to the organizational-level scorecard and provides an early warning system identifying problems or trends that cannot wait until the next quarterly strategy review meeting.
- The strategy review meeting must become the equivalent of the traditional Leadership These leaders own the meeting and the action items that come out of it. This means that the discussion, the assigning of accountability for follow up and, ultimately, the results are theirs.
- Stewardship for monitoring, reporting and recommending changes to the strategy can be delegated to individual members of the leadership team. These leaders can be made responsible for keeping the rest of the leadership team apprised of the progress of the implementation efforts.
- Facilitation of the strategy review meeting, however, may be provided by a functional officer. Facilitation begins at the preparation stage: identifying hot topics, framing priority issues for discussion, ensuring that appropriate analysis is prepared and provided by subject matter experts, and helping unit leaders bring the discussion to a decision.
- When the strategy has been cascaded, as described in the previous section, strategy review meetings are also held by teams managing subordinate units and/or departments. The management teams of these units review what they have done and what they need to do differently to support the enterprise strategy.
Successful strategy review meetings are able to provide answers to important questions such as:
- Did we execute the plan?
- What happened?
- Why do we think that happened?
- What alternatives are there?
- What do we think would happen?
- Which is the best choice?
One of the main outputs of the strategy review meeting should be an action log. The action log contains the actions agreed upon during meetings, the milestones for those actions, and accountability for future progress and results. Strategy review meetings will enable organizations to achieve higher levels of performance management, to evaluate their own results, and to make decisions that will improve their strategies at least quarterly rather than only once per year.
Reporting and Analysis critical to successful Enterprise Strategy Review and Unit Review Meetings
When planning any strategy review meeting that will leverage the balanced scorecard it is important to ensure that all relevant and available data is analyzed in advance of the meeting. Analysis and recommendations are part of the reporting process that allows the leadership team to learn and adapt. The strategic learning process has enabled organizations to maintain their competitive advantage in an ever-changing world by adapting faster than their competitors
Enterprise Strategy Refresh Meetings
These meetings occur, typically, once per year and are used to validate the strategy itself. They are commonly held in preparation for the annual update to the strategic plan. They may take place more frequently when the organization is in the midst of a rapidly changing, highly dynamic environment. Or, they may be spread out over longer times when relative stability is occurring.
The above recommendations are offered because organizations often spend a considerable amount of time and effort developing the strategy and then translating it into a Balanced Scorecard without taking it to the next step of assigning and accepting responsibility for strategy execution. Take it one step further by recognizing and taking accountability for achieving strategic results. As Dave Norton has said many times “Strategy is a team sport!” It’s important to appreciate this and avoid the tendency to create or re-create silos in strategy implementation.