Strategy as a leadership tool

Henley’s research* shows that when senior executives are asked what their biggest challenges are, the second highest ranked issue (after leadership capabilities) is strategy implementation, yet the follow-on question of why is rarely addressed. 

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Perhaps the coming holidays are an ideal time to reflect on this; perhaps to reflect on where the business is going and what will be different in 2018. What better way to bring the New Year in but by having clarity about the direction for your business and the key priorities for the year ahead along with confidence the organisation will successfully implement them. 

However, if strategy implementation this year has been a challenge, why will next year be any different? You will probably have already been reviewing 2017 and formulating strategies for 2018. 

Are you addressing the issue of whether the decided upon strategies are implementable or does your organisation just see this as the role of middle management? If a strategy has difficulty being realised could it not be that the strategy itself could be improved?

If strategy is seen solely as an opportunity to “think outside the box” and come up with the next “killer app” then perhaps this is the time to improve the capabilities of the senior team so that the concepts of strategy are better understood and better approaches are taken when developing strategies.

This would also be a good time to reflect on what strategy means in your company. Strategy is a powerful tool if used effectively. It is, in fact, a leadership tool and therefore is a key contributor to the leadership capabilities. Once the senior team see that strategy is not only direction but also clarity of the how’s and why’s communicated effectively to the organisation, the probability of successful implementation increases exponentially. 

Ensuring the team involved in strategy development have the analytical and insight skills is crucial; having the capabilities to identify existing and potential barriers to the creation of value is an essential component of strategy often overlooked. Understanding where value is created is part of your competitive edge. For instance, it may be an opportunity to tidy up chaotic systems that threaten the business and open up opportunities for competitors.

Business is not getting any easier what with low GDP and productivity growth – having a team with the capabilities of developing a good business strategy is what makes a winning formula.

Jeff Callander is Programme Director for The Strategy Programme

*Henley Corporate Learning Survey 2017

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If you have any questions, please contact our programme advisors, Hannah, Ruhi & Diana by email at exec@henley.ac.uk or by phone on +44 (0)1491 418767.