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Thought Leadership

The Evolution of Strategy: It’s time for the new way

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Have you hit a wall with strategy execution? You're not alone. In most companies, the best-laid plans drop like lead balloons.

For years, the word on the grapevine is that up to 90% of strategies crash and burn.

The evolution of strategy in the last century holds promise. But, right now, effective strategic thinking remains an impossible labyrinth for most companies. 

The old way doesn't work — it's all talk and no action. Following the bravado of a presentation, the managers who created the plan get busy and the employees who never saw or understood the plan get lost.

Without any visibility or decision-making in the strategic planning process, the people on the front line don't feel connected to the vision. So, with The Great Resignation in full throttle, millions of disengaged employees flock to businesses that boast remote work environments, innovative ideas, and inclusive cultures that place more value in their work.

Still, it doesn't have to be this way. You don't need to lose out on your goals, competitive advantage, vision, or best talent — not if you embrace the evolution of strategy.

It’s time for a revolution. Come along as we show you a new way for strategy planning, execution, and tracking.

The evolution of strategy planning

Here’s how to fail at strategy planning the good, old-fashioned way:

You gather together a small group of top-level executives who control the corporate strategy. It’s their baby, and may God save anyone else who dares touch it — especially not Matt in finance (that guy always throws a spanner in the works!).

Your crack team closes the boardroom doors, pulls the shutters, and waffles its way to a secret masterplan that everyone else will absolutely love (or so you think). If you can raid the company coffers without Nick whining, you’ll hire a consultant to take a quick look. Then, you’ll leave it to the CEO and his mad skills in Excel to jazz up the strategy before the big reveal. 

At the monthly team meeting, your employees trudge into the boardroom to find the giddy execs huddled in front of a projector. The managers take turns to bumble through the presentation, dictating vague messages as they hop through slides and scribble arrows on a whiteboard. The CEO wraps up with a quick rundown of a myriad of tools the team must use to "stay on track."

As the slideshow ends, silence descends. The managers blame the office lightning for the dazed and confused look on everyone's faces and then usher them back to work before people ask questions. As the think tank congratulates each other on a job well done, the CEO files the strategy in the completed folder on his laptop and then everyone blunders on without any idea of how to turn the vision into reality.

Sadly, this farce is the reality for so many companies today. The top-down approach to strategy relies on disconnected spreadsheets, notebooks, whiteboards, and third-party tools. Worst of all, it assigns this cack-handed mission to disconnected teams that don’t understand what they need to do. The "chief strategists" in the boardroom never asked for the employees' viewpoints.

In a nutshell: This is the old way of doing strategy, which boils down to a fancy plan that isn’t built for action.

Surprise, surprise, it fails. Fast and hard.

According to McKinsey,

72% of leaders claim they involve their employees in strategy creation. But, some of those leaders are telling porky pies, as only 56% of employees agreed and 29% flat out disagreed.

So, what happens when you involve your people? 

The new (and improved) way to do strategy planning

Imagine a company where the C-suite drops the smoke and mirrors act and hands the reins to the people. There is no grandstanding by the executives and there is no misalignment between teams. You decouple legacy processes and systems and create a competitive strategy that can deliver an impact.

How?

You make strategy everyone’s business. It’s an omnidirectional model where top-down thinkers meet bottom-up doers. And where everyone in the company has a say in the strategy planning (yes, even Matt).

This radically human attitude adapts to the people in your organization, taking on board their thoughts and views about how the strategy should work. After all, the people on the front line are the ones closest to your customer, so they might know a thing or two the bigwigs in the boardroom don’t know. 

With a strategy execution platform, you can say goodbye to disconnected systems and bring all things strategy under one roof. The whole shebang is not locked up on the CEO's computer — it's available for all teams, at all times, from all locations. 

What if people are doing something for the first time and aren’t sure about the process? Then you teach them. As you upskill your employees to take the most advantage of their positions in the company, you empower them to do more meaningful work. 

No more going back and forth between computers, docs, or tools. 

No more messy Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoints. 

No more dazed or confused looks on your employees’ faces.

Everything is simple to access, understand, and execute, which fosters a culture that shares information and sparks innovation. You save time, money, frustrations, and everything starts to fall into place. 

Sounds dreamy, right?

At Cascade, we think companies should dream bigger and execute better. It’s time to live the dream!

The evolution of strategy execution

Have you heard the tale about the company that whipped up a plan on PowerPoint, kept all strategy affairs in the boardroom, and still managed to adapt to the rapid-fire changes in their ever-evolving market like a ninja cat on a surfboard? 

No? Neither did we. 

Oddly enough, this scenario sums up the old philosophy of strategic management. When the people at the top fail to bring everyone on board and insist on legacy tools and desktop versions of plans instead of a modern strategy execution platform, the company loses out on a lot. 

Instead of getting the foundation for growth and hitting your goals, you’re left with a mess:

  • No organization of activities, goals, and responsibilities
  • No connection between daily activities and the vision
  • No clarity on how to implement ideas
  • No easy access and visibility for everyone
  • No alignment across all your teams

Plans will not become a reality if people don't know how to implement them — or even access them. Yesterday's tech can’t give you a clear picture of the future, just ask Kodak. 

The photography company owned 80% of the market in 1968. But, when digital disruption reared its head, Kodak stood still. It chose to stick with analog despite an emergent tidal wave of support for digital cameras. By the time the company moved to adapt its business strategy, it was already too late. The disruptors claimed the market and left a once-formidable giant floored. Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

It could have been oh-so-different if the company had a strategy that was built on tenets of fast adaptability and innovation. They could have fought back with innovation like IKEA, Dyson, and Ford did. These companies understood that, if you want to succeed with strategy execution, you must embrace a new way.

The new (and improved) way to implement strategy execution

What if we told you that there was a way to strategize where everyone knows how their work contributes to the company vision? A way where you can keep everyone on the same page at all times. 

That's right: we're talking about complete alignment across all departments and all teams. 

The biggest roadblock that stops teams from taking action on strategic plans isn't poor leadership; it's that the entire project lacks clarity and inclusivity. Most people don't feel like they have any ownership over the strategy. Even if they do, they don't understand it. The written plans and the employees' reality are worlds apart.

When you disrupt the way you strategize and bring your employees in on the ground floor with the business policy, ideas, and technology you want to use, you can simplify every human-machine interaction.

Strategize the new way, giving everyone the clarity they need to deliver the most impact in their roles. They’ll have the context they need to see the big picture and understand the importance of their part in the overall movement.

The evolution of measuring strategic success

Don't you love it when a plan comes together? Of course, we all get that warm, fuzzy feeling when our team crosses the finish line on a major campaign. The thing is, when it comes to strategy execution, your plans never “just come together.”

While some CEOs think they have superpowers, the truth is you can't stick the company strategy in a dusty Dropbox folder and hope it automagically bears fruit someday. 

If you don’t track your actions and their impact, how do you know if every activity takes you closer to the finish line? How do you know if your team is even moving in the right direction at all? You could just be staying still or wobbling around aimlessly. 

Measuring strategic success isn't just a nice idea — it's a do-or-die activity (well, for your organizational goals, at least). Yet, so many companies fumble around with this dated system. They have a plan but no means to measure progress.

They could try new tools, but the prospect of the learning curve and tracking all the metrics deters them. So, they stick with what they know, churning out a succession of disconnected, half-baked spreadsheets and slideshows that are almost instantly condemned to the outer galaxy of the company’s consciousness. 

Even worse, when they do try to implement new tools, there are suddenly five or six of them. And these disjointed tools can’t give us the whole image. Let’s say Matt finally gave the green light to implement project management and BI tools. However, by looking at the numbers in BI tools, we have no context on how do they reflect past projects. And the more tools you have, the more they get disconnected from your strategy.

Which project contributed to the sudden growth in subscription revenue when 5 teams simultaneously worked on at least 3 projects? While the business thinks they’re getting the necessary insights, the reality is, that they are just looking at numbers without any context. 

“It’s what we’ve always done,” they say, “there’s no need to change because it’s what’s always worked for us” (even though it hasn’t…).

Once a month, the intern will tidy up the mess of duplicate files, many of which are now outdated, and dump everything into a single folder. People will pat him on the back until they peek inside the folder and see 17 very similar documents — all with catchy names like "Strategy version 2.3 - back-up copy 12b." 

This chaos is what happens when you don’t have a proper strategy. The old way focuses on tactics but lacks direction. It leaves your team to flounder and frantically flop around without any sense of how it’s all meant to come together.

It's a firefighting methodology as your team reacts to problems instead of proactively pre-empting issues and driving disruption. 

With the old way to strategize and measure progress, defeat will swiftly come for your business. Without clarity, direction, and team alignment, all your efforts will fall short of their maximum potential.

There must be a better way, right? 

The new (and improved) way to apply strategy measuring

We’d love to tell you that we’re about to blow your mind, but that would be a lie. The truth is, the fix for your funky Pandora’s box-esque approach to strategy is embarrassingly simple:

You store everything that matters to your strategy in the same place. 

You have ONE tool for strategic planning, execution, and measuring. 

That’s it — that’s the new style.

Wow. We know, right? Just think about it:

  • No more digital exhaustion as you juggle business intelligence tools, analytics software, Google Drive, Dropbox, and the CEO's laptop. 
  • No more head-scratching sessions as you try to fill in the gaps where everyone “just forgot” to track progress for a month.
  • No more confusion about the latest versions of your strategic assets or the priority of activities on any given day or week.
  • No more tedious, time-consuming missions navigating a sea of duplicate documents.

Just one tool that helps you see the status of your strategy in real-time and makes it easy to adapt, update, and innovate.

Just one tool to rule them all. 

“But, but, but, does such a mythical beast even exist?” you press. 

Yes, old friend. Come sit here, and let us show you something that will really blow your mind. 

The revolution of strategy: How Cascade is changing the game

If you want to unlock your team’s potential to make high-impact changes, smash your goals, and combat the disruptors in your space, then it’s time to embrace the new way of strategizing.

Here’s how we help companies do just that:

  • Empower Strategy Activists: Our model helps you destroy the silos between teams. No more vital communications slipping between the cracks. You make strategy everyone's business and help everyone discover opportunities to add value and embrace change.
  • Foster a Culture of Vision Drivers: 90% of strategies won’t get executed With Cascade, you can transform your strategy into action by achieving on-the-ground execution.
  • Help People Work With Meaning: Engaged employees understand how their work impacts the bigger picture and connects to the company's vision. As your company adapts to understand the unique challenges and experiences people face, you bring more meaning to daily activities.
  • Challenge the way of executing strategies: The longer you cling to existing systems, the less you grow. We help you reimagine the future of your business and make your organization fast and flexible with a constant focus on enterprise-wide innovation and explosive growth.

It’s time to ditch the old way

The old way of strategizing has got to go. If you stick with the dated top-down ideology (and its secluded groups and Excel sheets), then you might as well not have goals at all.

A strategy without execution is just a hypothesis. Like a toothless dog, it’s all bark and no bite. If your business wants to succeed with strategy execution, where ideas are followed through to implementation, it’s time to think beyond the boardroom and whiteboard. 

Your strategy should thrive amongst those who execute it, not those who sit in boardrooms. Your strategy must be constantly shared, engaged, and exposed to everyone so it can adapt alongside the teams that make it happen.

Are you ready to disrupt the way you face strategizing? Check out our on-demand webinar to see why it's time to dream bigger and execute better.

Topics:Thought Leadership

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