The context of “strategy work” almost magically attracts spongy and vague topics. What you don’t otherwise address can be thrown in without hesitation in a future retreat – no matter how abstract or out-of-practice it may be! But then how does the masterpiece of “seduction” into real life succeed? It takes quite a bit of method to do this.
Talk is silver – action is gold
For concretization and practical processing, it is advisable to analyze individual parts from the planned agenda of the strategy retreat, to take them literally and to pick them up, relentlessly.
One example: “Success Factor Customer Communication in International Sales” is no longer covered in a frontal lecture, but is practically experienced – in real conversation situations that have to be dealt with right away as part of the seminar. For this purpose, customers are invited or experienced employees take the customer perspective and are available to the participants as sparring partners. It is discussed, tried and varied – experiences and surprises are exchanged and summarized, real situations in customer communication are thus experienced directly and genuinely.
Just talking about the issues is not good enough in many areas. Sometimes it takes a change of perspective, a different experience, a new experience – and that can only be made in practical action.
Essential strategy tools are often a “cheat” package
Classic tools of strategy work or strategy operationalization are often very specifically understood and individually applied in the companies. We are familiar with this phenomenon, for example, in the “Balanced Scorecard” – when only key figures are listed in the perspectives without considering the cause-effect relationships. Or in the case of the “Hoshin Plan”, which degenerates into a mere measure management if the corporate goals are not actively coordinated across departmental boundaries in the planning process.
For us, this means taking a close look when accompanying strategy work and asking specifically what content is contained in the packaging:
- For whch purpose, for which goal is the tool or procedure used?
- How is the tool handled, who does what exactly and when?
- What is the output or benefit from the application (who is the customer or who uses or needs the result for their tasks)?
This is sometimes uncomfortable, but only when it is clear how the tools work in the respective context can we place them in the overall strategy planning and implementation process, consider them accordingly, and use them.
It’s all clear anyway – so why are we still talking about it?
The classic strategy retreat naturally includes the motivational speech of the chiefs. The Indians are eager to finally find out their own purpose and the way to the promised land. But miraculously, there are no questions or comments from the audience after the one-hour impulse lecture. With a somewhat positive basic attitude, one naturally assumes that the contents were simply communicated in a brilliantly clear and razor-sharp manner – and fell on fertile ground.
Unfortunately, there is often a time lag, either during the break or days later, when people start whispering in small groups and a certain disillusionment sets in. Is everything really that clear? Is the company’s goal understandable and the way to achieve it comprehensible? Again and again, clear gaps become apparent, but in line with the prevailing communication culture, they are not introduced in plenary sessions.
Communication is a management task
Here, the rule clearly applies that the manager is responsible for successful communication. So if no feedback is given – although explicitly desired and also necessary to sharpen open points – the speaker has to invite it. If necessary, more often and with some nuisance. If critical or skeptical opinions are also valuable and desired, the presenter must set a good example and report from his own experience how he himself questioned – and obviously “survived” – certain things at a higher hierarchical level!
So address the participants individually, giving them time to think and formulate their response. Ask appreciatively and thank for every open message, even if you disagree – because without exchange no learning and no development takes place.
Appreciative accompaniment from the outside
You can also get outside support here. Our customers appreciate the open and trustful cooperation in the strategy process and the conception of strategy reviews as well as the support in communication. Through professional and skillful moderation, culture changes and concrete results in the work process become possible.