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Strategy Framework: How to refine your strategy & accelerate teams

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Article by 
Cascade Team
  —  Published 
October 24, 2022
June 7, 2023

Adaptive companies are growing more than 300% above their industry average. They go beyond assessing their strategy’s performance and make sure they make the necessary adjustments quickly.

Instead of being reactive, like agile organizations do, adaptive organizations are proactive in how they refine and accelerate their focus. Agile organizations might respond quickly to changes in customer behavior, but adaptive organizations anticipate them and lead the market.

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There is no point in building efficient reporting organizational habits if the company won’t or can’t adapt its plans and processes.

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can articulate your strategy so that it informs the decisions of your people on every level of the organization. We’ll highlight the importance of committing to those changes and how to create traction for your new strategy accelerating your teams.

Through the success stories we’ve shared, you’ll draw tips and ideas to apply and make your organization more adaptive.

Develop alternatives

Good strategies are about choices

Bad strategies don’t provide results. They may sound beautiful and inspiring, but they lack the power to influence outcomes.

And outcomes are the first thing that matter in a strategic plan.

“Offering the best possible customer service” is a bad strategy. That’s because it is not a strategy, It’s only an aspiration, a goal.

Goals and objectives are lousy strategies on their own. For one, because everyone in your industry has more or less the same.

Some achieve those goals and others don’t because the former translate their goals into actionable intent. The keyword here is actionable.

A good strategy goes beyond goal-setting. It informs decisions.

When an employee is about to make a decision, referring to the organization’s strategy should guide them. They should be able to determine exactly what the priorities are and make their decision accordingly.

Strategy provides value only once it guides decision-making. To do that, it needs to be specific.

Every strategic objective must coincide with a set of choices.

The strategy doesn’t have to exhaustively describe the actions included in that set. It should, however, provide in unmatched clarity a way for people to determine those choices.

“Making the highest quality product in its category” provides no insight to its people on what “highest quality” means.

“Making the safest product that works ten years after its purchase” offers clear directions to people on what the priorities are: safety and durability.

When the time comes, they’ll know what decision they should make to stay aligned with the strategy.

💡A good strategy maps out the choices your people will take.

Define your alternatives

Why is it important to frame your strategic plan as a set of choices? 

Because that way you can create alternative plans and compare them.

Developing a plan B allows you to acknowledge that your plan isn’t perfect and at some point, you’ll have to change it.

If you regularly assess the performance of your strategic plan, eventually, you’ll find that you have to adjust it.

There is no perfect plan in business, at least none that is stagnant. Even if there was, the world is changing so fast that it would become obsolete very quickly.

So, set your destination and develop the alternate routes that can take you there. Every route is a distinct set of choices.

Debate those different sets of choices that are laid before you. At the very least, this will create clarity around your strategic plan because when you’re deciding what you’re going to do, you’re also deciding what you’re not going to do.

In other words, priorities are reinforced in people’s minds.

Asking tough questions and weighing the pros and cons of every alternative also strengthens the resolve behind the final plan. People commit to it because they are more conscious about the final choice.

💡Plans always change. Develop alternatives to build clarity and resolve on your strategy.

Success Story

When Frank Martin became the CEO of Hornby Railways, a British toy company, to save it from bankruptcy, he articulated its new strategy as a set of clear choices.

He said that the company would aim to make perfect scale models for adult collectors appealing to their sense of nostalgia. With such a clear destination, the people of Hornby Railways were able to confidently make the decisions that drove the company forward, elevating its share price sevenfold.

Inputting your plan in Cascade forces you to connect your goals and projects with the focus areas of your strategy. That way, people can easily refer to it to inform their decisions, giving your organization clarity.

Be adaptive & decisive in your direction

How everything ties up

Organizations today succeed when they have the capacity to refine and adapt their strategy quickly when they can anticipate change and adapt fast.

And to achieve that, everything must come together.

  1. A well-researched strategic plan utilizes the vision of the organization to reverse engineer the first step.
  2. Exposing your strategy to your people builds alignment and accountability.
  3. Creating a safe environment where trust is present empowers your people and builds transparency.
  4. Incorporating great reporting habits in your organization reinforces focus and alignment.

When every one of these traits is present, your organization can quickly discover and seize new opportunities. It can effectively correct its course and move towards a new direction as one aligned entity.

Stagnant strategies bring companies down. In today’s world, the pace of change accelerates, and only organizations that can adapt just as fast succeed. 

The story of Kodak is a clear example of a company that failed to adapt its strategy due to fear of change. 

Kodak’s engineers invented the first digital camera and recognized it as the future of photography. Instead of adjusting its strategy and allocating its resources to invest in this new technology, Kodak’s leadership stuck to the old strategy.

Kodak had the opportunity to lead the space of digital cameras as the king of the category. The leadership chose not to do that. Eventually, when other companies surpassed Kodak’s technology, Kodak died.

💡Strategy is an iterative process. A journey with no set route. Adapt or die.

Be decisive and go all in

The lesson here is one of courage and decisiveness. The more you have to adapt your strategy, the scarier it gets. The assumption that what worked earlier will continue to work in the future is deceptive.

Don’t get too attached to the status quo. Whenever you ask, “why is this done that way?” and get the response “that’s how we’ve always done this,” question it.

Obsess over the destination and become flexible over the path. 

Once you have established in the review process the need for change, go for it. Don’t feel shy about tweaking and adjusting your strategy.

It’s a mistake to try to take a more balanced path out of fear of failing. Be decisive and change decisively again if it was the wrong choice.

It’s not an admission of failure to acknowledge that the current strategy needs adjusting or that it could improve. Instead, it’s a demonstration of focus and clarity of direction.

Be courageous and adapt your strategy, metrics, activities, or whatever needs to change. Fully commit to the new direction and get everyone on board.

Kodak held back on its new invention because of its attachment to current revenue streams. Although it created many patents for digital cameras, they didn’t dominate the space. Thus, as soon as those ran out, Kodak was far behind in the innovation curve.

Implementing an adaptive strategy demonstrates clarity of vision. Realizing that there is a better route to your destination, a faster or more efficient way to achieve your vision, and leaping to it shows determination.

It doesn’t mean success is guaranteed; it never is. In the next evaluation moment, you might find out that this new route isn’t any better than the previous one or that it’s worse.

If that’s the case, adjust again. That’s what it means to treat your execution as a learning process.

💡Commit to the direction you choose and don’t hold back.

Success Story

Starbucks’ initial expansion to China was not successful. For nearly nine years, the company’s stores weren’t financially performing because the company hadn’t adapted to its new environment.

China is very different culturally from the United States. Family is a critical and central part of society. Once Starbucks’s CEO, Howard Schultz, understood that he decided along with Belinda Wong, the CEO of Starbucks China, to take care of their people’s families.

The number one request of Starbucks’s employees in China was critical healthcare for their parents. The company was the first to provide that benefit to its people. And since then, Starbucks has enjoyed impressive success in that Country.

When you decide on the changes in your strategy, adjust your plan inside the Cascade platform rapidly. You can archive anything that becomes a distraction and replace it with new goals, KPIs, or projects.

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Celebrate your wins

Reward progress to build traction

People execute strategies. And they need to believe that they can do it.

Bold goals and big targets discourage people if they feel they can’t achieve them. The most effective way to boost people’s motivation is to reward progress.

Lift your teams whenever they achieve a milestone.

Celebrating small wins energizes people and refreshes their morale. It creates a powerful internal motivator that enables people to push forward.

For example, if an engineering team is tasked with maintaining a software product, then every bug they fix is a praiseworthy achievement.

People are also intrinsically motivated when they achieve meaningful progress towards their goals. Recognizing and celebrating with them reinforces that notion.

However, whenever a team is discouraged, it takes time to build its member’s confidence up. And if the situation is tough, it might be hard to find reasons to celebrate.

Provide ample praise and encouragement until significant success is achieved. Then build on that. In time, success will breed more success and people will start believing that they can achieve their goals.

People start engaging with the organization’s strategy more as they slowly build momentum.

Consequently, whenever a major outcome is achieved, everybody inside the organization needs to feel it.

Give the teams or the individuals responsible for the win the credit. Honor them publicly and reward them. You’ll achieve two things that way.

The first is that the people responsible for the success will get a big burst of enjoyment that will fuel them to work harder and stay engaged.

The second is that public recognition signals to everyone in the organization that progress and beneficial outcomes are rewarded.

It reinforces the idea that leadership pays attention to its people and the progress they make. Strategy gains traction and people feel the momentum build up.

💡Celebrating progress creates traction and motivates people.

Success Story

When LeAnn Talbot became vice president of Comcast’s Freedom Region, she had to revive a region that was performing poorly and its people had lost faith in the mission.

Amongst many decisions she took, she also looked for every opportunity to boost the morale of her people by celebrating every little win and success they had. People gained their confidence back, engaged more with their work, and believed in the mission again.

As a result, the region gained second place in the company's internal ranking in just two years.

Cascade provides an easy overview of the progress of every project. It’s easy to spot when a significant milestone is achieved and celebrate it on time with your team.

Learn from challenges & accelerate

Capitalize on past approaches

People who act and try new things usually face greater challenges or simply fail. So do organizations and big corporations.

Those challenges can become important and valuable lessons for the organization. Ignoring or discarding them is a waste of a potential opportunity.

Having no knowledge of past mistakes sets people up to repeat them, while not knowing what worked well sets them up to waste resources on experimenting.

Adaptive organizations have practices that enable them to capitalize on past failures and challenges. They record the activities and decisions that worked or didn’t work in the past and make them available to their people.

Those practices can be implemented at various levels of the business. They could be as simple as a document with all the customer questions and the answers that the customer support or customer success people could view. It could be a series of decisions that a single assumption generated.

Whatever it is, having a practice, a process that documents previous challenges or failed attempts while at the same time allowing employees to refer to it to inform their decisions, is an invaluable resource.

Your people will be able to take advantage of the work of the past, improve and build on it, reaching further and higher.

Adaptive organizations realize that to correct course quickly and adjust their strategies in an ever-changing world, they need to have the knowledge of the past at their fingertips, easily accessible.

💡Document your approach to challenges and learn from your past.

Share knowledge to accelerate

Obstacles stall progress and execution. Your people must have the tools to conquer them swiftly.

Sharing knowledge should be common practice in your organization because it is such a tool. When a team successfully overcomes a challenge, their solution should be available to everyone.

That way, when another team faces the same challenge, they can use that solution to overcome it faster. They won’t get stuck trying to solve a problem that was already solved by another team. They will move faster towards achieving their goals.

Celebrating victories informs everyone of the success against a certain challenge, communicating a solution available for it.

The same goes for failed approaches. If the solution to a challenge isn’t available or apparent, then knowing what’s not going to work helps narrow things down. That’s another reason trust is important inside the organization.

People who feel safe will share their failed approaches hoping that somebody else will find some value in them. 

Execution moves faster when people have the tools to adapt fast and solve their challenges quickly. 

Then, they’ll be able to realign with the overarching strategy and achieve their goals.

💡Share best and worst practices to accelerate execution.

Success Story

When the pandemic hit, PepsiCo experienced a 15% decrease in its sales in the second quarter of 2020 and had to adapt fast. And that’s what it did. The company implemented gradually over a period of eight months a more flexible working model for its employees.

PepsiCo empowered its managers and teams to figure out who needs to be in the office and for how long to maximize productivity and everything stays on track. Then they shared their findings internally.

PepsiCo’s fast adaptability that utilized its most powerful resource, its people, increased sales and overall profitability.

Your strategic plan inside Cascade is easily customizable. Thanks to its high interactiveness and transparency, your people can change their projects, align with the strategy, and adapt faster.

A quick summary

The combination of everything mentioned in the Cascade framework makes adaptive organizations capable of adjusting their strategies quickly and accelerating the execution of their plan.

Below, we have collected our guidelines on how to refine your strategy and accelerate its execution:

  • Strategy is a set of choices. Frame it like that and consider alternatives
  • Don’t hesitate to change your strategy. Choose your new direction and commit
  • Build traction for your plan by celebrating meaningful progress
  • Accelerate your teams by sharing knowledge internally

If you want to accelerate the execution of your teams, book a demo with us.

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