WANTED: Strategic leadership for effective organizational change.
METHOD: A no-nonsense, practical guide to three things you can do to transform your impact.
The word “strategy” has been frequently overused and abused in recent times. Has anyone ever asked you for an “un-strategic” plan? Of course not. But what exactly is meant by “strategic leadership” and why would we link it to “organizational change”?
Strategic Planning Process: Making the difficult choices
Strategy is about making choices with regard to what you’ll do as an organization as well as an individual. It requires prioritization, focus and a deliberate choice to not do some things.
It often helps to let your goals guide your difficult choices. Are your goals clear? If not, undertake a systematic analysis of your current business performance, keeping in mind changing customer preferences and competitive pressures. Will the activities that follow your strategic initiatives help you achieve your goals faster and more effectively? If so, adopt them; if not, cut them.
Beyond goals, it’s also important to think about the mission of your organization. What is your DMO’s raison d’être, or reason for being? Having clarity of purpose for long-term ambitions is essential to shaping the goals that will guide your decisions. This is a fundamental place to begin your strategy development.
Because we know that developing a strategy can seem like a daunting task, we have illustrated these components into a Strategic Planning Process (below) to help guide you through it. The idea is to start the process at the centre, then move to the top and work clockwise. The wheel can help guide your strategy assessment, starting with the vision and ending with measurement.
Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change
Why is it that good strategy often fails to be implemented? Have you ever proudly reread a strong strategy document only to wonder why it didn’t have the impact you anticipated? Dr. John P. Kotter popularized one of the most effective approaches to tackling this challenge in his 1996 book, Leading Change, wherein he proposed eight steps for implementing new strategies. This process reflects the reality that a major new strategic direction requires some sort of organizational change. Failing to move forward on the earlier steps leaves a weak foundation for later, simultaneously making failure more likely. Kotter’s eight steps are:
Establishing a Sense of Urgency
Creating the Guiding Coalition
Developing a Vision and Strategy
Communicating the Change Vision
Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action
Generating Short-Term Wins
Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change
Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture
Is it possible things have changed since 1996? Kotter reviewed his process in 2014, making modifications aimed at speeding up activities and running them in parallel as well as at scale. But the fundamental discipline and logic of this framework is a good starting point—one that remains relevant today. For example, complacency among employees can doom a new strategy to fail at step one. You can avoid similar situations by using Kotter’s eight steps to address the practicalities of what it means to be a strategic leader in your organisation.
The 7-30-90 plan
Finally, relating back to the early steps in the Kotter model, consider your 90-day plan. Much has been written about how important the first 90 days are for new leaders joining an organization. But for those already in the organization, the forces of inertia stand to hold you back even more. The premise is that if you don’t make significant progress within 90 days, then the status quo and predetermined conventions of the organization will reassert themselves.
Taking this a step further, consider your 7-30-90-day program of change for strategic leadership. Knowing that you cannot start at day 90, you need to break things down into specific stages early on. What can you do in the first seven days, and then in the first 30 days, that significantly moves the dial toward implementing your new strategy? How can you make this measurable, tangible and credible? If you cannot stand up at seven days, or 30, to show progress, then consider whether you will be able to do so at 90 or 365 days. Look carefully at your role and ask yourself how your strategic leadership will differ from some of the less successful approaches you’ve witnessed with others.
Though past failures can discourage people from creating a new strategy, understanding implementation can help lead the way beyond cynicism. Better yet, strategy doesn’t need to be complicated when the planning process is clearly defined, and that’s exactly where the Strategic Planning Process can help. An effective strategic leader must recognize the different stages in the organizational change game to make the systematic and deliberate choices that will create a strong plan for the future.