I have helped many of the world’s most well known companies and government bodies develop successful strategies and believe the most valuable tool is to draw up the strategy on a single page so anyone can easily understand it.
The template I use for this is my Smart Strategy Board which contains 6 areas every strategy should have.
In my experience, smaller businesses often don’t have clear and concise strategies and plans, which can prevent them from growing or even create blind spots that can be catastrophic to their business.
In order to help companies of all sizes get really clear on their strategy needs I’ve developed the SMART strategy board:
The aim of the SMART strategy board is to help you step back and ask: what are your strategic goals and priorities? You can’t deliver on your plans if you are not clear about what it is you want to achieve and need to focus on.
SMART strategy board in action
A good strategy for any business, at any stage of growth, includes considering each of the six panels from the SMART Strategy Board:
The purpose panel
The purpose panel sets the scene and provides an inspiring framework or overall context regarding your business strategy or what your business is aiming for or seeking to achieve.
This can best be done by detailing your purpose and ambition statement – each doing a distinctly different job.
Your mission statement is a clear, concise statement of purpose setting out why your organisation exists. A mission statement should communicate your intentions powerfully, providing a roadmap to guide action and decision-making as you strive towards the strategic goal or objective. It is primarily an internal document designed to motivate stakeholders and define the key measures of organisational success. As such it should include your target audience, what products or services you provide to that audience and what makes your product or service unique.
Your vision statement also defines purpose, but from the perspective of ambition or what you want your business to be in the future.
As an inspiring picture of your aspirations the vision statement gives direction to internal and external stakeholders. Internal employees can be inspired to give their best by a strong and meaningful vision statement; customers can end up choosing you over the competition based on your vision statement and shareholders can be encouraged to invest. The vision statement gives direction about what the business values and therefore what behaviour it adheres to and expects from its stakeholders.
The customer panel
The customer panel prompts you to consider how much you currently know about the customers your strategy is targeting and what you may need to find out in order to deliver on your strategic objective. There are two parts to consider: target market and value proposition.
Considering your strategy (including your mission and vision), ask yourself:
- What is your target market?
- Are you planning to appeal to a particular segment; if so why and what do you know about that segment?
- Are you targeting a particular geographic region or specific demographic? If so, what do you need to know about those potential customers to improve the likelihood of success?
The second part of the customer panel encourages you to clarify your value proposition or what you are going to offer your target market.
- Why are these customers going to buy from you?
- Do you think they will value your quality, price, innovation, service, or something else?
- What will contribute to customer satisfaction and loyalty?
The finance panel
The finance panel prompts you to define your financial goals and ambitions of your strategy.
Here you define how your strategy is going to generate money and how your business venture will be funded. Questions to think about are:
- What is the business model?
- What are your goals in terms of revenue, profit, cash flow and growth of your business as you implement the strategy?
- How are you planning to finance your business?
Obviously getting the customer panel right will help to get the finance panel right and drive revenue growth and profit.
The operations panel
The operations panel prompts you to consider what you actually need to do internally to deliver your strategy and what you you have to be best at. There are two components of the operations panel: partners and core competencies.
First you need to consider which suppliers, distributors, partners or other intermediaries are crucial in delivering your strategy. Then you define the goals and ambitions you have for those relationships. Do you currently work with these people or will you need to create the relationships? If the relationships already exist, how healthy are they right now?
In addition you need to consider what core competencies you need to excel in if you are going to execute your chosen strategy. Define the objectives you have for your core competencies.
- Are there any gaps?
- What processes are going to need to be perfected if you are to deliver what your target market wants?
Once you are clear on the individual elements highlighted in the customer, finance and operations panels you need to consider how they impact on each other. Remember, the customer, finance and operations are the core of the business and they need to work together.
The resource panel
The resource panel prompts you to consider what resources you need in order to deliver your strategy and what you may need to find out. There are four components of the resources panel: IT systems and data; infrastructure; people, talent and cultures; and values and leadership.
Taking each in turn you need to consider:
- What IT systems and data are you going to need to deliver your strategy?
- What infrastructure – property, machinery or plant are you going to need?
- What are your people and talent requirements?
- Do you have the right people and if not, what are the goals for finding them?
- Will you need to train your current staff or recruit new people?
- What are the key culture and leadership deliverables that will enable this strategy?
The competition and risk panel
The competition and risk panel prompts you to consider what competition you will be up against as you seek to deliver your strategy and what risks you may face along the way.
This competition and risk perspective is the element that is most often missing from strategy maps and yet it poses a serious potential threat to successful strategic execution.
Considering what you are seeking to achieve ask yourself:
- Who is your main competition and why?
- What is potentially threatening your success?
- Are there any specific market, customer, competition or regulatory risks that could derail your strategy?
- What are the operational, financial or talent risks you face?
Strategy doesn’t have to be complicated
In my years as a consultant, I’ve noticed that the urge is often to make business strategy complicated — it seems like it should be, after all — but in reality, it’s no more complicated than filling in the blanks of this one-page template.
Even if you can’t confidently answer all the questions right now, filling out this template will quickly highlight the areas of your strategy that still need work, and help put you on the right track for success.
If you give it a try, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Was your strategy as robust as you thought? Did the exercise highlight any gaps? Were you able to create a new strategy by asking the right questions?
Please let me know your experience in the comments below.
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