Strategic Vs Operational
The journey and growing pains for a team
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
The Context of Business today
In an article on change in 2009 I wrote that:
“Everyday everyone is encountering unprecedented change and this requires a radical rethink of how we do business. Organisations need to be able to achieve more with less, react quicker to the market needs, and constantly innovate and refine how they do business. This will require Real Leadership and Authentic Teams that work together to deliver the possible from the apparent impossible. To survive in these challenging times, many teams will be required to review and make fundamental changes to their current strategy and tactics.”
Six years on: I believe that, the successful teams adapted and changed how they worked. They were able to manage the day to day challenges but also looked to the future and built plans to achieve that success.
Developing a Strategic Team
The challenge for teams is that they are so focused on the day to day operational issues that they don’t have the time to proactively manage the future direction. Too often the strategic plan does not move from planning to implementation.
I have developed a team programme that can be facilitated over a 3 month period (100 days). It has a 4 step process. The team develops a Team Development Plan (Strategic) on day 1 and on each of the subsequent workshops 2, 3 and 4 at 30 day intervals they review and update it.
100 days was chosen as this time period determines whether a team/Individual develops the necessary behavioural changes to ensure success or not. At the end of the process the team develops the plan beyond the 100 days. Each individual supports the team plan with a Personal Development Plan.
Pitfalls and Challenges
From my experience over the last 25 years common themes emerge. Here are some of the key challenges that teams encounter:
- Creating and developing a strategic plan with specific actions/milestones in place to ensure that it is moving forward whilst at the same time ensuring the crisis’s and day to day operational issues are dealt with
- Managing time as a team to ensure that an agreed percentage of what we do every week is delivering our strategic plan
- Individuals in the team see the necessity to deliver strategic actions as well as operational actions. There can be a real frustration in a team if some team members are thinking and acting strategically whilst others are still working the “old way” Essentially there is a step up challenge for each person to think differently.
- The Organisation cannot agree what the strategy is and therefore don’t give clarity of vision to a team. The team becomes unsure if the direction they have decided to go on is the right direction. They may get mixed messages which ultimately create doubt and as a result fear of moving forward ensues.
- Getting buy in from other stakeholders that are critical to delivery of the strategy to complete tasks that are non-urgent but important –(i.e longer term deliverables). Ultimately it is getting Individuals and teams in the organisation to commit to an agreed timeline/plan in delivering milestones and actions.
- When a team change how they do business (i.e. more strategic) other teams/Individuals react. They can be uncomfortable with the change in behaviour and resist (sometimes unconsciously). The challenge is for the team to bring people with them in working differently.
- Although many organisations talk about strategy there can be a lack of alignment. It’s the classic your crisis or need is not my crisis and need. If other teams/individuals are not working strategically they can view your requests as “It’s not my problem”
- Strategic thinking requires looking into the future – Looking into the crystal ball- making mistakes is part of the journey. Assessing the risk and planning for contingencies is part of the process to ensure that mistakes are not costly. Getting the balance right between challenge and support enables teams to become more effective. Getting key stakeholders to buy into this team environment is also critical to success.
This list is not exhaustive but it touches on some of the key issues that teams will encounter when they want to be more strategic. A comprehensive plan will proactively attempt to manage these issues: to align the strategic goals, build team and leadership capability, refine processes and build relationships to ensure a strategic plan that can be delivered.
“The interactive process challenged the team to build a strategic plan with a clear action plan. The “Team Framework Model” and review process ensured we mapped our progress and it challenged our commitment to being more strategic” Jackie Keaney, Commercial Director, Indaver Ireland
“The interactive process challenged the team to build a strategic plan with a clear action plan. The “Team Framework Model” and review process ensured we mapped our progress and it challenged our commitment to being more strategic”
Jackie Keaney, Commercial Director, Indaver Ireland