Strategy Bootcamp: Making Sense of the Chaos

Bec Lee
Customer Education Manager

This is the first session of our Strategy Bootcamp series, where you'll hear from our expert Strategy Execution Directors on the basics of strategy. This first session is on Making Sense of the Chaos - understanding the six elements of strategy and how they can each be a source of chaos to understand.


Hey there. In this session, we are actually going to be talking about making sense of the chaos. So we're gonna be doing a little bit of a deep dive into what the current state of your strategy might be, and doing a little bit of this kind of step zero around how we can understand and kind of diagnose the current state that might be a little chaotic and kind of build this foundation from moving forward into a couple of our next sessions, including things like rolling out effective strategies. But what we really need to do first is make sense of that current state and understand that chaos before we move forward.

So on today's session, I've got myself, Back Guard Product and Strategy Education Manager. I'll be doing a little bit of this introduction here kind of setting the stage for this session. And then I'll actually be handing over to Miriam, one of our strategy execution director experts on strategy here at Cascade.

So before we dive into the bulk of the session, let's do a quick review of our agenda.

So we're gonna be starting off with a bit of an introduction, which is where we'll begin kind of just understanding what our goal is with this session. Then we'll move into a bit on understanding the problem. So that will be taking a look at what that chaos really means, how to kind of understand our current landscape before we move into the kind of details of the session, which will be around the process, chaos to order and that cascade approach, which will be, handled by Miriam. So I'll pass over at that point, and we'll get a bit of a deeper dive into the elements of strategy that once we understand those and can kind of map those out, let us move from that chaotic place that we might be now into order and strategy.

So before we get into that, let's talk a little bit about the problem. Problem feeding chaos.

So it's kind of a broad term. So I wanna get a bit more detail around how we're defining chaos and where it might be coming from. That's gonna kinda set the stage for understanding what we call the elements of strategy.

So every business obviously has a lot of different moving pieces around just all the different things that are required to make a business run. It's people, it's budgets, it's timelines, it's circumstances, it's situations, it's priorities, it's the economy at any given moment, etcetera.

So strategic chaos is what happens when these moving pieces aren't organized, tracked, or monitored.

So that chaos can look like a lot of disorganization, lack of coordination, uncertainty and unpredictability that usually also can come along with some employee disengagement, some confusion.

Maybe you're missing targets or dropping the ball on different projects because things are misprioritized.

Maybe there's double effort in a lot of places, but the three kind of main areas that we can kind of nail down that are kind of the root problems usually are lack of alignment, lack of prioritization, and lack of direction.

So, obviously, a lot of these things are symptoms. So there are a lot of these different problems that come all from these different elements not being handled properly, essentially, that creates symptoms of chaos. So some of these things look like really frequently changing your direction, not having a clear vision around what the organ is trying to do in the short term or the long term, and that just by itself can create a lot of stakeholder confusion, lower employee morale because people just don't know what they're doing or why they're doing it. A lot of times that spawns a lot of other issues in different areas like for communication or missing opportunities not even taking full advantage of opportunities you do go for, inconsistent decision making, and inefficient, or improper wasteful resource allocation.

So again, these things are all what we would call symptoms of chaos. So what we're gonna focus on in this session is understanding the six elements of strategy.

And kind of nailing down what those should look like. And then understanding kind of the other side of the coin is if those aren't aligned with that kind of better state that we want to see. Any of those six elements can actually be a root cause for all of these different symptoms of chaos. So, for example, some of these things we'll get into is things like terminology or strategic planning. So if we have gaps or holes in any of those elements, we're gonna start seeing a lot of these different symptoms pop up. This confusion, this lack of investment, the waste, or no prioritization or communication.

All these different things that pop up when we are have holes in those different elements of strategy that we want to pay attention to.

So keep that kind of in mind in our back pocket. What we wanna do in as a result of this session is be able to kind of diagnose or understand those elements of strategy are. And then once you understand kind of where we want those to be, it's a lot easier to identify how your business or strategy might be looking now and start understanding what that chaos is, where it's coming from, and then we can start working on restructuring those things to work towards a better position, a better current state.

So where we are kind of now is in these first couple of stages. So we wanna identify existing work situations, how things are now, the very first step before we can get into this crafting better strategy or getting into this kind of future end state that we want to achieve is doing a really good job of diagnosing and understanding that current state, which nine times out of ten is gonna be a bit chaotic.

So if we break down that chaos in the first place before we move even try to move forward into creating a better strategy or any of these things, the first step we need to do is break down, understand, and diagnose that chaos. So the framework that Miriam will be discussing is the six elements of strategy that are actually going to start giving us that framework to break down kind of compartmentalize this chaos, and then we can work backwards from an understanding of what those elements are and kind of identify where your specific symptoms of chaos for your business may be coming from.

So as we kinda move into this discussion of what these elements are, we're going to encourage a few minutes actually to just kind of consider where your team is now. So thinking of those different symptoms and issues that can come up in this chaos front from these different elements we're about to get into just kind of from an overall sentiment of your current state of your strategy and team, how would you rate your team's level of chaos? Is it one, not very chaotic? Seems pretty ironed out.

You know, you've got maybe some of those symptoms popping up, but for the most part, it seems like you've got a pretty good handle on it. Or five, Very chaotic. There's all of these symptoms. You could check the boxes near them, and they might be coming from multiple places.

Everyone's feeling them. It's pretty common.

Knowledge that these things are issues or struggles for the business.

So with that said, kind of to keep that in the back of your mind as a kind of quick rating on how you would rate your team now. And then let's actually pass over to Miriam and talk a little bit about what those elements of strategy are so we can start compartmentalizing, breaking down, and making sense of that chaos. Marion right over to you.

Okay. Hello also from my side.

I'm going to walk you today through a practical example of the strategy elements that make up a good strategy.

So in this fictional example, we're going to talk about the company up. This is completely made up. An up is a startup for shoes made out of recycled plastic.

Their vision is to make the world a better place one shoe at a time.

They had really fast growth over the last couple of years. They were hiring lots of people hitting, around three hundred employees now, and their current strategy is created in a PowerPoint deck and they track their progress in Excel.

So there is a lot of confusion about the strategic direction us too many goals have been communicated.

And they do have a really strong why.

But they have more like short term goals and market pressure that made them focus on profitability solely.

So the reporting and the governance of their strategies happening sporadically and on demand.

Their terminology keeps on changing, and terms seem to be unclear. So teams don't really know what to follow.

There has been a lack of communication with their teams as things just got busy.

So teams feel disjointed from their leadership and their strategy.

So now let's take a look at those elements, that make up good strategy.

So again, company up has been hiring Cascade to help them making sense of the chaos and to create clarity and alignment across the business.

They want to bring everyone back to what truly matters, where it to rate their why and double down on their strategic focus area.

They also want to increase their employee engagement and set themselves up for success and especially for further sustainable growth in the long term.

So what does that look like? Working with Cascade, the team, learned how to adapt their terminology.

Make it more consistent.

And instead of some of their teams using strategic priorities, others using focus areas and others, talk just about priorities. They are now aligned to the terminology focus areas.

So that created clarity on outcome and help the entire organization to understand what they stand for.

Simplification of their focus areas and a reduction from formally fifteen to now five focus areas made it easier to understand for everyone.

They also made sure that every employee could recite the focus areas.

And that alone created clarity and a really strong sense of working towards a common goal.

Now let's look look into their, strategic planning.

So, again, using Cascafe's strategy model helped them to double down on their already really strong corporate vision, their why, making the world a better place. One shoe at a time. They ensure it's communicated in every single presentation to rally the team behind and create a business and a culture driven by purpose.

They also reestablish their values, and the value supported their vision and were embedded in their people performance system.

So living by their values became part of how they operated on a daily basis and fostered a positive culture.

This really clear and size vision and the transparency around the values ensure that all employees could relate to the why and the values.

And after they had established their corporate plan, they asked the department heads to work on their operational plans bottoms up. So let's look at that a little bit more detail.

So going one level deeper, we were looking at the y and then at the the values adding into that. Now, we're really talking about those strategic focus areas.

So A lot of companies have a lot of focus areas here, and that makes it really hard to actually focus on something. So we're recommending to work with three to six aspirational focus areas that are really clear and set a company strategically apart.

So what company up had previously fifteen focus areas, now they're down to five. That's been now really successful to be really, really clear in what they're focusing on.

So The thing is also they realize some of their focus areas were just part either of their day to day business or a project of another focus area. So consolidating them and rewriting them really helped them to set a really, really clear focus.

And then attached to the focus areas we're talking about the objectives.

Again, understanding here that less is more is very critical to formulate successful outcome focused objectives.

So let's look a little bit more at an example here. So one of their focus areas has been DTC direct to consumer expansion.

And the three associated objectives were doubling, the e commerce business by end of twenty twenty five. Increasing brick and mortar sell through by ten points, end of twenty twenty four, and a successfully implemented omnichannel functionalities by end twenty twenty three.

So to get most out of their associated measures with each objectives, they're looking into implementing both leading and indicators.

Lagging indicators, for example, are something like revenue or profit. They're looking into the past versus leading indicators or looking into the future.

So for that example of for, let's say, the objective, out of the three, increasing brick and mortar sells for about ten points span of twenty twenty four, they had set a KPI of open ten new stores in the US, which would be a leading indicator.

And increasing profitability by five points, that would be the lagging indicator.

So again, this structure helped the teams to identify where they need to double down on, and that it helps also the teams underneath the one level further down on their operational plans to be really, really clear what to feed into the plan and what to focus on.


That was focus areas and objectives. Now looking at the involvement and ownership.

What we're talking about here is essentially the corporate plan, first of all, is created by the leadership team. And then with the guidance of this corporate plan, the functional leads are creating the operational plan.

And that way there is a chance to not only build this challenge to top top down, but also feed into it bottoms up.

And, again, the corporate plan is owned by the leadership team. The operating plan is usually owned by the functional leads. And they need to align to each other, in a in a perfect world so that execution, successful execution is guaranteed.

Alright. Next up, reporting and governance.

With an established cadence of weekly meetings or weekly operational meetings, the team was able to view progress updates on an ongoing basis. So this helped to make the strategy accessible.

We're talking about different levels here. There is the weekly operational review that is probably a monthly strategy or business review. And then there is a quarterly review that is really more looking at the higher level strategy to ensure that everything stays on tracked and on track and that they can adapt and track accordingly and and just in a fast way. So there is an established cadence that helps to succeed and helps to follow through with the reporting.

And through this streamlined reporting and the metric tracking in a single source of truth, like, cascade that is then also able to present those reports in a condensed and summarized way on, a level that is accessible for the leadership.

That obviously helps to not only save time but also to really have that single source of truth where everybody's inputting, but then also where everybody's looking at again for the output.

So having a strong cadence and governance here really helped to accelerate their strategic plan and created that healthy sense of urgency in the business.

And the last one, the sixth element is communication and culture.

So is this is, in my opinion, probably one of the most important, elements while all others are hard factors, I'd like to call them. This one is based on empathy and connection and soft factors.

So the leadership team started to communicate, about their strategy and on on a more regular basis and this is beyond the reporting cadence. This is communication in a town hall meeting, for example, or something I personally learned as a great example when their CEO started to have monthly feedback meetings in an informal way with employees to kind of foster that culture of transparency and also help people to feel heard and understood.

On top of all of that, they also launched, change management process to support the internal transformation and that helped to get every person on board even if they were previously resistant to change and to a new tool. So company app made this tremendous progress and saw a positive employee survey results, but more importantly, they achieved their business results and their targets faster and build on their success model to further expand.

And their culture in general was built on trust and a common sense for the purpose and their vision.

People were engaged because they believed in the vision and they were aligned to the values.

So the clarity around those common focus areas really helped to foster positive sense of urgency.

It motivated people and employee or I motivated employees as they saw the direct link of how they can contribute to the company's overall strategy.


So, again, this is a very fictional and perfect world example.

We know that things break and, there it is, it's rare that all elements are in place and are functioning. But we want to show you what a perfect world looks like and what a perfect process and the perfect implementation of all those elements looks like. Because that's ultimately also. We need to know what good looks like, to see where we can get better at the end of the day as well. So again, it's a fictional example, but it is, also the combination of all the learnings that we have from different industries.

So as a summary, summary, if strategies are too complicated or have too many focus areas, too many, different words are used. It's getting complicated and, people don't know what to follow. So consistent terminology is the key.

Then, of course, it all starts with the y. If there is a strong why and in place, it makes it easier for people to align to this bigger vision.

As I just already said, too many focus areas and too many objectives are not, helpful to align people and to really focus the business on what truly matters.

So kinda like less is more here to focus and double it down on what truly matters to achieve success.

Then the fourth point clear ownership and involvement from leadership level to functional area heads to teams the more clarity is there is in the less overlap, the better.

And reporting and cadence, again, we seen this, in multiple businesses, the right cadence and the right structure here in place with a powerful reporting and powerful report as an outcome can really not only help to save a lot of time, but also make conversations so much more impactful and ultimately help to half the strategy succeed faster.

And lastly, regular communication, needs to be ingrained in the culture. I think it's a given, but it's oftentimes where we still lack and even communicating when something is maybe not fully baked is better than not communicating.

So all of these elements are critical to make your strategy successful. And again, here at Cascade, we do know that software alone is likely not gonna change how you do the business, but working together with a team that is dedicated to this transformation and change process as the strategy execution directors like myself combined with this powerful software That is what really helps a company to make lasting and real sustainable change.

Okay. And just to put it all together, of course, this is an example of the perfect world. But ultimately all of these, elements essentially just show us what different sources of the chaos can be. And understanding how they also are interconnected and how they fit together. It can help us understand where the starting point could be to create transparency and create alignment and, essentially work towards not having that chaos.

That's why it is so important to have an understanding of where you stand with your company and with your strategy today, in each of those six elements. It's like running a diagnosis to see where where it might be breaking, but then also the opportunity to start and create that, alignment and that greater clarity to make sense of the chaos.

So thank you for your time and thank you for your attention, and I'll pass it back too, Beck.

Thank you for wrapping this up with that Miriam. That is the had an overview of the different elements of strategy that we wanna kind of monitor for potentially being the sources of the strategic chaos that we see in coming up through these different symptoms. So we're gonna leave you today with a actually, one of our tools that we use help assess those strategies for our services team with our strategy execution directors.

And that is a pretty thorough assessment that we use to help you kind of evaluate how your business is now according to those six elements. Again, just to kind of give you a lay of land, a good starting point to start organizing things, into those six kind of elements or buckets. And then from there is where we start untangling that chaos and then move forward with what will actually be our next session, which is rolling out effective strategies.

So with all of that said, hopefully that was a fantastic session, We do have some additional resources that are all around this topic as well, and be sure to tune in to the next session as well. Thank you all for attending, and we hope to see you at another session sometime soon.

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