This article is a follow-up on article 1: The Practice of Strategy: Who are the Key Strategists of an Organization.
After an organization has identified the level of urgency and magnitude of changes that are required. The strategists to be involved are identified. The activities carried out by these group of activities include strategy analysis, issue-selling, decision-making and strategy communication.
When it comes to strategy analysis, many tools are available. Strategists most often reach for analytical tools such as SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis which is by far the most widely used. Each analysis tool contains particular usefulness and concepts which facilitate and constrain its users. The strategy tools are also used as a means to engage in strategy conversations. When going about strategy analysis, strategists need to consider:
- The number and competencies of individuals involved, the time, budget and subsequent communication of analysis results which by default should all depend on the underlying purpose.
- Investing in technical quality which will prove to be an invaluable addition to subsequent strategic decisions.
Strategic issue-selling is the process of gaining the attention and support of top management and other important stakeholders. To gain the attention and support of top management, managers need to consider at least four issues:
- Clearly communicating the strategic importance of issues and linking them to the strategic goals or performance metrics for the organization
- Balancing the formal and informal channels of influence. Formal channels include annual business reviews, meetings and workshops while informal channels include conversations over meals or drinks
- Whether to push the issue as an individual or collect other individuals to garner support
Strategic decision making is not always rational. Decision makers and by default human beings face ‘cognitive biases’ that affect our decisions. Our mental processes are prone to neglect, distortion or exaggeration of certain issues. The biggest challenge with cognitive biases is that it is often difficult for us to recognize we are suffering from it. However, good decision-making processes can help remedy the ill effects of these biases. Some of the common decision-making biases are: confirmation bias, anchoring bias, saliency bias, affect bias, and risk bias.
When communicating strategy, strategists have to consider which stakeholders to inform and how they should tailor their messages to each. Shareholders, key customers and employees are likely to be particularly central, all with different needs. For every new strategy, there should be a communications strategy to match. It is also important to remember that communication is a two-way process. The following points should be considered when shaping a communications strategy for employees:
- Communications should focus on the key issues and components of the strategy
- The appropriate media should be used to communicate the strategy
- Employee engagement must be considered
- An impactful message, with powerful and memorable words and visuals should be presented
In conclusion, strategizing activities are often geared towards creating a business case or strategic plan. A business case carries the data and argument in support of a specific strategy proposal while the strategic plan carries the data and argument in support of a strategy for the whole organization.